Tax Identity Theft Awareness

Tax Identity Theft Awareness

Identity theft is when someone uses your identifying information – your social security number – without your permission to commit fraud such as obtaining loans, credit cards, bogus bank accounts, etc.  Tax identity theft happens when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information – social security number – to get a tax refund from the IRS.  It can also happen when someone uses your social security number to get a job or claims your child as a dependent on a tax return.

This week, January 13 through January 17, is Tax Identity Awareness Week.  “We have seen a significant increase in the number of incidents in our state over the past several years and it is the goal of my office to make North Dakotans aware of tax identity theft,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.  “Being proactive in the prevention of identity theft is less frustrating and time consuming than trying to recover from an actual identity theft.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax identity theft is the most common form of identity theft reported to that agency.  The IRS has taken proactive steps to assist consumers who find they have become a victim of tax identity theft.  There are several preventative measures that you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim. 

·       Always store cards and documents containing sensitive personal data in a secure place.  Sensitive data may include: credit cards, social security card, driver’s license, bank account numbers, pre-approved credit applications, address, date of birth, tax records, passports, utility and telephone bills.  Shred or tear up all such documents prior to their disposal.

·       PINs and passwords should never be written down or revealed to anyone.  Choose ones that cannot be easily guessed and change them regularly.  When conducting banking or investment transactions over the telephone, make sure that no one can hear you or be in a position to detect your PIN or password as it is being entered.

·       Don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox – it makes it easy for someone to steal your bill payments and use that information to their own advantage.  Consider installing a secure mailbox.  If you are going on vacation, ask a trust neighbor to collect your mail each day or have the post office hold your mail until you return.

·      Obtain a copy of your credit report regularly to check for fraudulent accounts, false address changes and other fraudulent information.  Report all errors to the credit bureau and have them immediately corrected.

·       Keep and carry as few credit cards as possible.  After completing a credit card transaction, make sure that the card you get back is your own.  Tear up the carbon copies.  Cancel all unused credit accounts.

·       Carefully review all bank and credit card statements, cancelled checks, telephone and utility bills as soon as you get them.  Report any discrepancies immediately.  If any regularly expected statements do not arrive on time, contact both the post office and your creditors to ensure that your mail isn’t being diverted to another location.

·       If you applied for a new credit card and it hasn’t arrived in the time expected, call the bank or credit card company involved.  Report all lost or stolen cards right away.

To lessen the chance you’ll be a victim of tax identity theft:

·       File your income tax return early in the tax season, if you can, before identity thieves do.

·       Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office.

·      Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.

·      The IRS will not contact you by email, text, or social media.  If the IRS needs information from you, they will contact you by mail.

·      Shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need.

Tax identity theft victims usually find out about the theft when they get a letter from the IRS telling them more than one tax return was filed using their social security number, or the IRS records show they received wages from an employee they don’t know.

If tax identity theft happens to you, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490; the North Dakota Tax Department Taxpayer Services Section at 701-328-1242; and the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office at 1-800-472-2600.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division investigates allegations of fraud in the marketplace.  Investigators also mediate individual complaints against businesses.  If you have a consumer problem or question, call the Consumer Protection Division at 328-3404, toll-free at 1-800-472-2600, or 1-800-366-6888 (w/TTY).  This article and other consumer information is located on our website at www.ag.nd.gov.

 


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