The IRS recently released its “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, reminding taxpayers to use caution during tax season and throughout the year. We will look at these in the next few articles.
Identity theft remains the top problem that the IRS has to deal with. This is when someone uses your social security number to file a fraudulent tax return to claim a refund, or commit other crimes.
You may be unaware that this has happened to you until you file your return later in the filing season and discover one or more of the following: you receive a notice from the IRS stating that more than one tax return for you was filed; you have a balance due, refund offset, or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return; or IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
If you feel you have been the victim of identity theft, you may call the identity theft hotline at 1-800-908-4490. You may also want to contact the local police and the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Phishing is another way thieves can steal your information. This is typically done through email, whereby they ask for personal information from you for a “legitimate” reason. Remember, the IRS never solicits information from taxpayers through email. If you receive an email that appears to be from the IRS, report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tax preparer fraud is another way that identity theft or fraud can occur. Be careful in choosing your tax return preparer, using only those who will sign your return and enter their Personal Tax ID Number.
If you need help in choosing a tax preparer, or want other information, you can visit their website at www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro. Remember, you are responsible for what is on your tax return, even if it is prepared by someone else, so be sure to review your return carefully before signing and filing it.
In general, keep your information secure. Remember, the Bible teaches us to be as “harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents”.