As last minute tax filers line up at the post office, the Idaho State Tax Commission is offering some advice for folks who may become a victim of identity theft tax scams this year.
“It can be a surprise and it can be an unpleasant surprise,” says Tawny Eldredge, the Identity Theft Victim Assistance Coordinator with the Commission.
Eldredge says one of the first indicators of a problem is if you get a rejection notification after trying to electronically file your tax return. Another red flag is when you get a letter about a tax return that you haven’t filed yet. And watch out if someone calls or emails you pretending to be the IRS.
The IRS will not call you, Eldgredge says. They will send you a letter first. They will not demand payment over the phone and they will not tell you to buy gift cards to pay them.
One of the newer, surprising scams, says Eldredge, involves direct deposit. Here, criminals steal your information from tax preparers. The scammers file a fake tax return in your name and have the money sent to your bank account. Then, they call you claiming to be from the IRS, and say a mistake was made and that you need to send them the money.
“If the IRS is calling you and asking you to send money back, there’s a really good chance that it is a scam,” says Eldredge. “It’s very sneaky.”
So far this year, the state tax commission has identified 63 returns of people hit by identity theft. That has saved $95,198 in refunds from going into the pockets of thieves. That's down from the $266,980 saved by this time last year. Eldredge says she thinks that's due in part to their efforts to reduce tax-related identity theft.
“Unfortunately the bad guys are clever and they’re always coming up with new things and so we have to be really on our toes,” says Eldredge.
She doesn’t give away a lot of detail on how they find those patterns so she won’t reveal any secrets to potential thieves.
And if you are a victim? You’ll have to prove to the Idaho Tax Commission and the IRS that you’re really you. That means having your social security number and past tax returns handy.
“We want to make sure that the refunds that go out, go out to the legitimate individual,” says Eldredge.
The commission freezes the account while investigating. Then it puts a flag on your account, which tells the system to keep an extra close eye on your future tax returns. And next year, when a tax return comes in under your name, you may get a letter asking you to verify your identity.
Once you’ve told the IRS and the state commission your identity was stolen, file a police report. Then start checking your credit report and let your bank, the Social Security Administration and the state attorney general know about your identity theft.
Eldridge says it can take up to six month to verify and fix the problem with the IRS. So if you’re expecting money back and your refund is stolen, be patient.
Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio
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