You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Taxpayers advised to file early to fight fraud


Income tax season is under way for individual taxpayers, and while many might not be in a hurry to file their returns, it’s a sure bet that criminals are poised to push the send button and transmit bogus documents.

Using the victim’s Social Security number, they snag a refund before the legitimate taxpayer files.

A 2013 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report found that while the IRS is stopping more fraudulent returns, it issued an estimated $3.6 billion in potentially bogus 2011 refunds.

The problem of tax-related identity theft continues to grow along with identity theft overall. Take the recent Target and Neiman Marcus breaches.

“There is nothing a large company can do to completely protect itself,” said Jonathan Bochese, an attorney at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Tax Defense Network, a tax resolution firm. “There are people out there trying to hack websites. If a database exists, someone can get into it.”

Likewise, although there are measures people can take to keep from becoming a victim of identity theft, there’s no way to completely remove the risk.

What’s a legitimate taxpayer to do? Beat the crooks to it.

“If you file your return as close to opening day as possible, it minimizes the chance the fraudulent return will get there first,” Bochese said. “The IRS will process the return they get first.”

Bochese said a mailed return can take 10 to 20 days to enter the IRS’ system, so e-filing is advised.

If the IRS becomes aware you have been a victim of tax return fraud, it will send you a letter, not an email. The IRS never sends emails, Bochese said.

The IRS has issued six-digit identity protection PINs to taxpayers who have been victimized in past years. This year the IRS expects to provide more than 1.2 million taxpayers with PINs. For the second tax season in a row, the number of PINs has nearly doubled from the year before. The PIN allows these individuals to avoid delays in filing returns and receiving refunds.

The agency said this month it has ramped up its efforts to combat the problem by assigning more than 3,000 IRS employees to work on identity-theft related issues. In addition, the IRS provides training to more than 35,000 employees who work with taxpayers to recognize identity theft indicators and victims.

From 2011 through November 2013, the IRS reported, it stopped 14.6 million suspicious returns and protected over $50 billion in fraudulent refunds. This year it’s also increasing both the number and efficiency of the identity theft filters that are used to identify potentially fraudulent returns due to identity theft before it processes a return and releases any refund.

While identity theft is a huge issue that will continue to increase, Bochese’s advice is not to be fearful, but to be aware.

Here are his tips on lowering your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:

1. Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Keep your Social Security card and any other document with your Social Security number on it in a safe place, like a locked fireproof box or safe. The easiest way to get your identity stolen is through your SSN and legal name.

2. Be wary of giving out personal/financial information. Remember, the IRS, banks, and other financial institutions will not communicate with you via email. To best protect your identity, do not use your Social Security number online or through email or text.

3. Protect your online accounts. Check for the secure transaction label when making payments online and be aware of any security breaches with regularly used national retailers. In addition, be careful of the information (like birth names, addresses, places of employment, etc.) you show on your social media accounts. Be sure to have a solid firewall, anti-malware software, and to regularly change your passwords.

4. Check your credit report regularly. The best way to stay on top of your identity is through credit reports. Go to annualcreditreport.com and get a free report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year.

5. Be proactive. If you suspect someone is using your identity or has your information, contact the IRS using Form 14039 to inform them of the potential issue. This will lock your account and, although it will make it more difficult for you to receive information from the IRS, it may prevent thieves from defrauding you or the government.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Days by the pool: Is it worth the cost?
Days by the pool: Is it worth the cost?

Every year as summer approaches, families think about adding pools to their backyards. Before your kids talk you into installing one, you should consider the financial implications. Better Business Bureau advises you: Do your research before installing your own pool. Ask yourself why you want a pool Consider these questions: Why do you want a pool?...
Chipotle investigating credit card data breach
Chipotle investigating credit card data breach

Chipotle Mexican Grill is investigating a data breach in its payment processing system, after reporting a sharp increase in sales. The fast-casual restaurant said it recently detected unauthorized activity on its network that supports the payment system. Chipotle said the transactions occurred between March 24 and April 18, and the company believes...
RETAIL APOCALYPSE: More than 8,600 stores could close in 2017
RETAIL APOCALYPSE: More than 8,600 stores could close in 2017

More than 8,600 stores could close in 2017, a record estimate of closures compared to recent years. A new research report from brokerage firm Credit Suisse estimated that more than 8,600 stores will close this year, up from the 2,065 that closed last year and the 5,077 store closures in 2015. Major retailers across the country have taken a hit...
WATCH: Amazon’s new shopping concept means never waiting in lines
WATCH: Amazon’s new shopping concept means never waiting in lines

Amazon is launching a new kind of brick-and-mortar store that means never having to wait in a line again. The new concept Amazon Go will give consumers “the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line,” according to the online retail giant. Some industry experts are calling the concept the future of...
No more cookies: Kroger’s offering free piece of fruit for kids
No more cookies: Kroger’s offering free piece of fruit for kids

Kroger is promoting healthy living through a new initiative that gives kids free fruit to munch on while their parents do the grocery shopping. The Cincinnati-based grocery retailer piloted its “Free Fruit for Kids” program in several stores starting last year. Parents can grab a piece of fruit for their children to eat from the produce...
More Stories