Tax season = fraud season? ID theft complaints climb
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just revealed a 47% increase in identity theft complaints in 2015 compared with 2014. That’s a total of nearly 500,000 identity theft complaints last year.
Over the same period complaints doubled relating to “tax and wage” identity theft, where thieves use a Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return and gain the refund.
In fact, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez has called tax refund fraud “the largest and fastest growing ID theft category” that the commission tracks.
Given the sobering statistics, I wanted to reiterate a few guidelines from my recent post on this topic. Read the full post here.
5 warning signs of identity theft
If you see any signs that your identity may have been stolen, don’t panic. There is plenty of advice available to help you take action. Here are five scenarios that might alert you to a problem:
1. Withdrawals from your bank account or charges on your payment cards that you don’t recognize.
2. Expected mail fails to arrive.
3. Unfamiliar accounts on your credit report.
4. Bills from medical providers for services you didn’t use.
5. Notification from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
Take a look at more scenarios here.
If you believe your personal information has been stolen, try to act quickly. Developing a plan can help you recover from the event. The Federal Trade Commission’s site is very clear and outlines the steps you can take with useful links.
Another scam – beware of the IRS impostors
At tax time, criminals frequently pose as the IRS to trick victims out of money or personal information. They call you and leave voicemail messages that sound very convincing, sometimes threatening.
Never give personal information over the phone, or through the mail or the Internet, unless you have either initiated the contact or are sure you know who is asking.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via email to request personal or financial information. Also the IRS does not use text messages or social media channels to request personal information.
With proper vigilance, we can all play a part in fighting back against the fraudsters this tax season.