When it comes to identity fraud during tax season, we have good news and bad news.
The good is that we can quickly identify and anticipate when it has happened and jump into “damage control” action. The bad news — well, it happens. Increasingly, clients are experiencing this devastating crime. During tax season, thieves will try to snatch your refund. And, unfortunately, it’s a long and rocky road to repair the problem.
How do you know if you’ve been hit with identity fraud?
We usually discover identity fraud when we try to file a return for a client. We’ll receive a message that alerts us that someone has already used the client’s Social Security Number to file; since only one social can be used per filing, this is a huge red flag. “Unfortunately, identity fraud is discovered when we file tax returns,” says Linda Bossard. “In fact, several of our clients have had this challenge. It is difficult to work through, but we do it.”
Earned income credits that have been filed because of a fake W-2 are another tricky issue. If you file and can claim earned income that you didn’t actually earn, scammers have figured out how to reroute your refund. The IRS now requires employers to file W-2 information sooner so they can begin matching W-2 information with claims.
Tips to avoiding Identity Fraud:
Protect your Social Security Number.
Don’t give in to email phishing scams by email or phone.
Remember that the IRS will never call you or email you! If you do receive a call or email, it’s most likely a scam, particularly if the person sounds hostile.
Protect yourself! Lock your credit card, check your credit regularly, and use a Social Security protection site such as LifeLock.
Contact the three national credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) to secure/lock your credit.
What to do if you are the victim of fraud:
Immediately contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) of the IRS. If it has been a year or longer since you filed and you have not received your refund, the IPSU can help you. Our team can manage this if you grant us Power of Attorney (POA) privileges.
Download the Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039) from the IRS and fill it out.
Contact credit reporting agencies.
File by paper (otherwise the IRS will think you’re filing twice) and explain that you are a victim of identity theft. (You will then be issued a PIN to use for the next year.)
The IRS is working to improve Electronic Fraud Detection Systems (EFDS) data to determine true social security number owners, eliminating time-consuming research and making the process more efficient. Also, rumors are circulating that the IRS may be thankfully starting a new program called “The Identity Theft Commission” to help avoid these fraudulent crimes.
If you are concerned you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft, Linda Bossard or one of our accounting team-members will be able to help out. Contact us at 209-527-4220. Stay safe this tax season!
Manoj joined Grimbleby Coleman as an Associate after four years in banking and 2 years in the transportation industry. In this role, he assists with tax planning engagements and business returns and greatly enjoys seeing his client relationships morph from professional to friendship. Manoj holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting from California State University, Stanislaus.
A long time Livingston, California resident, Manoj stays very active in his community. He's been involved with Livingston Rotary, was a Livingston Planning Commissioner, and a Livingston Medical Group board member. He also volunteers at the Livingston Guru Sikh Mission. "And I would like to get involved with other organizations in the future."
In his free time, you might find Manoj traveling, enjoying time with his daughter, or relaxing with friends and family.
His favorite number is 21. "My dad, brother and I were all born on the 21st." How's that for a coincidence?