Unfortunately for some people, the headache doesn’t end once the paperwork is sent off. Many receive letters indicating that their return has been ejected as a “duplicate” because the filer’s Social Security number had already been used to file a 2014 return, for which a refund was issued.
Tax fraud relating to id theft is one of the many scams that the IRS is forced to battle each year. Thieves don’t get your exact tax refund. Instead, they create a return that generates a generous sum of cash by using specialized tax credits. Many victims report receiving a letter from the Internal Revenue Service’s Integrity & Verification Operations department about a review relating to the use of the Earned Income Tax Credit or business income.
The IRS said it is increasing its use of models to detect ID theft and stop scammers from receiving refund money. However, that doesn’t mean that identity theft is stopping or even slowing down. Undoubtedly there will be a number of victims of tax-related identity theft this year.
So what should a person do when they find out their identity was stolen and used to file false tax returns? We have already related some steps every victim should take in a previous post. Here are three more:
Alert credit bureaus: Thieves with enough information to successfully file a tax return have more than enough of your personal data to do damage in other areas. “If a thief had enough information about you to file a false tax return, he could have also opened new credit card accounts or taken out a loan in your name,” says CPA Troy Lewis, chairman of the American Institute of CPAs’ tax executive committee. In such circumstances it become imperative that you let credit bureaus know that your information has been stolen, so that potential creditors or lenders make sure to verify the identity of anyone looking to open credit in your name.
If you filed a police report after you discovered the theft you can also place a credit freeze on your files, which prevents new creditors from viewing your score altogether. With an official police report this is a free service. Freezes will also prevent you from accessing instant credit, and thawing your account can sometimes take a few days and cost a fee, so make sure you understand the consequences of a freeze before applying one to your accounts.
Change passwords: Electronic tax filing has given thieves a new window of opportunity to collect taxpayer information. According to Intuit, the parent company of TurboTax, many criminals have simply taken over existing customer accounts to file false returns. If you use the same password on multiple websites, or use a simple password, the chances are much higher that you will become a victim of identity theft in this manner. If you have online tax filing accounts and have received notice of a fraudulent return, take steps to change your passwords on those accounts. If you use that same password at other websites, like your online banking, change it there too. It is essential to keep your passwords safe to ensure maximum protection.
Be patient: Unfortunately resolving id theft takes time, often around 6 months. Even after clearing up the specific incident, problems can be recurring afterward, especially without knowing who stole your information. However, the IRS will pay you your refund, even if a scam artist got away with their scheme. All you need to do after taking these steps to protect yourself is be patient.
While you are waiting it is important to protect your identity as much as possible. Sign up for a credit monitoring service that can alert you to certain activity on your account and check your credit report regularly.