Montanans Encouraged to Protect Themselves Against Tax ID Theft
In observance of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, the Montana Department of Justice encourages Montanans to take steps to keep themselves safe. Tax identity theft happens when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund from the IRS. It also can happen when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job or claims your child as a dependent on a tax return. Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the past five years.
“The best thing consumers can do is to protect their personal information and be aware of the ways tax identity thieves try to obtain it,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “That can include someone going through your trash, or stealing your mail, or sending you a phony email that looks like it’s from the IRS. Educate yourself on what you can do to fight back against these types of scams that are sweeping the country.”
To lessen the chance you’ll be a victim:
• File your tax return early in the tax season, if you can, before identity thieves do.
• Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically. Don’t use unsecure, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots at places like coffee shops or a hotel lobby.
• Mail your tax return directly from the post office.
• Shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need.
• Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
• Know the IRS won’t contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will first contact you by mail.
• Don’t give out your Social Security number or Medicare number unless necessary. Ask why it’s needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored.
• Get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
• If your Social Security number has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
• Check your credit report at least once a year for free at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.
What if you are a victim? Tax identity theft victims typically find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in their name, or IRS records show they received wages from an employer they don’t know. If you get a letter like this, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft.
IRS Imposter Scams:
Unfortunately, tax identity theft isn’t the only way scammers are targeting taxpayers. Since July 1, 2014 through today, the Office of Consumer Protection at the Montana Department of Justice has logged 617 IRS scam call inquiries. That compares to a total of only 10 calls from July 1, 2013 to January 26, 2014. These scammers may know all or part of your Social Security number, and rig caller ID to make it look like it’s really the IRS calling. Before you can investigate, you’re told to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the number — something no government agency would ask you to do.
If you owe — or think you owe — federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or go to www.irs.gov. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions. The IRS doesn’t ask people to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and doesn’t ask for credit card numbers over the phone. When the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they usually do it by postal mail, not by phone. Report IRS imposter scams to the FTC at: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/Information?OrgCode=IRS#crnt&panel1-1 or to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484. You can also contact the Office of Consumer Protection at the Montana Department of Justice toll-free at 1-(800) 481-6896 or by e-mailing [email protected]