Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster warns consumers to be alert for tax fraud identity theft as the 2015 tax filing season begins.
“Tax ID theft fraud is increasing, just as all forms of data theft are increasing,” Koster warns. “Missourians can help protect themselves by filing their returns early, and consumers who experience problems can reach out to my office for help,” Koster said.
Tax identity theft occurs when an identity thief uses a taxpayer’s stolen identity to file a fraudulent return and claim the victim’s tax refund. The identity thief often uses a stolen Social Security number and other consumer information to file a forged return. In other scams, some tax thieves use children’s identities to fraudulently claim them as dependents on a return. In yet another version, scammers will hack into an online tax preparation software account opened by the victim.
Although most workers receive their W-2 forms from their employers by the end of January, many consumers wait to file returns. A scammer who has access to your personal information can take advantage of that delay to file in your name. Because the IRS tries to process refunds quickly, the scammers receive their fraudulent refunds electronically or in the mail before you file.
Tax-related identity theft was the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission in 2014. In calendar year 2015, more than $85.5 million in attempted fraudulent tax refunds were identified and prevented by the Missouri Department of Revenue, often because the taxpayer had filed early and had already received a refund – more than doubling the $39.9 million amount in 2014.
How can I know if I am a victim?
- Be alert to possible tax fraud identity theft if you receive a notice or letter that states:
- More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
- Collection actions are taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return or did not owe money.
- IRS or DOR records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
- The IRS or DOR questions your claim information pertaining to your dependents.
- When using electronic filing software, you are unable to process your return.
Consumer tips and information
- File as early as you are able.
- Use only reputable electronic filing programs from respected vendors or tax return preparers.
- The IRS doesn't initially contact a taxpayer by email, text, or social media message. They will not ask for personal or financial information in this way. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to email@example.com. If you receive an unsolicited email or text that claims to be from DOR, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or any document with your Social Security number on it.
- Don’t give a business or medical provider your Social Security number just because they ask. Ask why it is needed and use another reference number if you can. Use your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary.
- Check your credit reports periodically.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam and virus software, update security patches, and change passwords for Internet accounts. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Don’t allow anyone remote access to your home computer unless that person is known to you.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have either initiated the contact or you are sure you know who is asking.
- Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to: email@example.com. For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call: 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting. For suspicious contacts which you suspect might be DOR imposters, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steps to take if you suspect you are a victim
- If you think someone used your Social Security number for a tax refund or a job, contact the IRS or DOR immediately.
- If the IRS or DOR sends you a notice about a problem, contact the agency immediately.
- If you suspect a tax return preparer filed a return or altered your return without your consent or you are seeking a change to your account, file a form with the IRS or contact DOR. The IRS will ask you to complete Form 14157 and Form 14157-A, and mail it to the address shown in the instructions.
- If you suspect that someone has taken over your electronic filing software account, please notify the Attorney General’s Office online.
- If your Social Security number is compromised and you suspect you are a victim of tax fraud identity theft, take these additional steps:
- For federal fraud, complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then mail or fax according to the instructions. You will be asked to send proof of your identity with your form.
- For Missouri tax fraud, report the incident to the Missouri Department of Revenue by completing Form 5593PDF document, and then send a scanned copy of the form and required documents to the DOR at email@example.com. You may fax or mail the forms instead.
- File a police report with your local police department online or in person. You will need a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit which you can access at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0094-identity-theft-affidavit.pdf, proof of the theft, a valid ID, proof of address, and the FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement.
- File a consumer complaint with the Office of the Missouri Attorney General and with the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
- Place a fraud alert with the three major credit reporting agencies. Consider placing a credit freeze. For more information, call 1-800-392-8222.
More information concerning identity theft and tax fraud identity theft is available online and a booklet for identity theft victims is also available here.