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, birth-dates, and other information including some credit card numbers were stolen from their data system. This is one of the estimated 1,500 data breaches in 2017; but perhaps the worst in terms of potential financial consequences to individuals. We should all be on High Alert!
Credit alerts and freezes will not prevent 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. The best way to prevent tax fraud is to file your federal and state income tax return as early as possible.
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 fraudulent returns do go through each year undetected. 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.
If you believe that a fraudulent tax return was filed using your information, complete and send a copy of the IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039 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. Request your Social Security Earnings Report using this form. Follow up with both agencies to make sure the fraudulent actions are corrected. Request written confirmation by letter or email.
Identity theft and fraudulent actions have negative impacts 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.