Expect Scammers to Steal Your Identity

With tax season just around the corner, you can expect to receive unsolicited e-mails claiming to be from the IRS, or phone calls from scammers masquerading as reputable financial institutions, asking you to share your personal and financial information with them. They will sound professional and convincing. If you believe them and give them the information they're asking for, they could file fake tax returns on your behalf and run away with huge refunds. This is what scammers do in tax season: they steal identities to claim millions from the IRS in tax refunds.

Things to Remember:
1. The IRS never initiates contact with you by e-mail, SMS or social media. Any such contact is an attempt to steal your identity.

2. During the tax season, scammers will try to get your personal and financial information by stealing your wallet or purse, looking through the trash, hacking into unsecured websites on which you shared sensitive information, etc.

3. Scammers are looking to get your Social Security Number (SSN) above anything else. Without the SSN, the IRS does not accept tax returns. Keeping your SSN protected must be your priority during the tax season.

What Is the IRS Doing?
The IRS’ Criminal Investigation (CI) department prevents, detects and investigates cases of identity theft. CI currently has four Scheme Development Centers (SDCs) across the country to detect refund fraud. But it seems that is not enough. The IRS could not prevent 1.5 million potentially fraudulent tax returns from being filed in 2011. More than $5.2 billion in tax refunds was lost due to identity theft in that year.

You know the extent of the problem from the fact that the IRS successfully detected more than 930,000 identity-theft related tax returns in 2011.

The IRS is now looking to introduce new processes for handling tax returns, hoping to curb the menace that identity theft has become. Identity theft has topped the IRS Dirty Dozen tax scams, the list of the most widespread tax scams the IRS publishes every year. Instead of relying on the IRS, it is best to keep your SSN, and other financial and personal information, safe.

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