By: Gisele Jefferson, Family and Consumer Sciences, Washington County, Colorado State University Extension
Yes, it is alarming; the Equifax data breach may have exposed more than half the adults in this country to identity theft and financial fraud. Names, social security numbers, birthdates, and other information including some credit card numbers were stolen from their data system. During the first half of 2017 there were 791 separate data breaches; and the Identity Theft Resource Center estimated there would be over 1,500 total by the end of the year. We should all be on High Alert!
Credit alerts and freezes will not deter non-credit frauds such as tax refund theft. The Federal Trade Commissions has dedicated the week of January 29 – February 2, 2018 at Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Fraudsters in possession of a valid name and Social Security number frequently create phony W-2s and related forms in search of a quick refund. In 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported were over 1.5 million bogus tax returns filed claiming over $5 billion in refunds. However, some do go through each year undetected.
Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. The best way to prevent tax fraud is to file your federal and state income tax return as early as possible.
Contact the IRS immediately at http://www.irs.gov/identitytheft or by phone
1-800-908-4490 if they send you a notice saying their records show you were paid by an employer you don’t know or more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
What to do? Report the fraud. Send a copy of your police report or an IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039 [PDF] (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf) and proof of your identity, such as a copy of your Social Security card, driver’s license or passport. Then, update your files. Record the dates you made calls or sent letters. Keep copies of letters in your files.
If your Social Security number is used fraudulently, notify the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. You may request your SS Earnings Report using this form https://www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-7050.pdf.
Any identity theft and fraudulent actions have a negative impact on your personal credit history, your peace of mind, your health, and your financial future. Don’t put it off. Protect yourself today by getting ready to file your federal and state income taxes as soon as possible. Don’t wait until April 15 deadline.