How to protect yourself from tax-related identity theft

Betty Q. Hixson

INDIANAPOLIS — As the deadline to file taxes approaches, one Indiana mother is sharing her story about tax-related scams as a warning for others.

“Tax time is scam time and people are always experiencing scams of one sort or another,” IRS spokesperson Luis Garcia said.

One of those scams is tax-related identity theft. The wife of a WRTV colleague is sharing her in hopes of bringing awareness to the issue.

“[I’m] kind of [feeling] mixed emotions. More frustration and thinking we already submitted our paperwork to our tax folks to get this process going,” Angela Harker said.

Harker spent hours Friday trying to figure out how someone else filed a return using her personal information before she even filed this year.

“So to get this letter yesterday was kind of like a there’s one more step? I thought we were done for this year,” Harker said.

On Thursday, Harker received a letter in the mail from the IRS, explaining someone used her and her husband’s personal information – names and social security numbers or taxpayer-identification numbers — to file a return.

Her father-in-law and sister-in-law too got similar letters earlier this month.

“Trying to figure out where the common space was, we still can’t figure that out,” Harker said.

The IRS cannot comment specifically on anyone’s personal tax situation, but a spokesperson offered tips on how to prevent this from happening.

“Taxpayer privacy and taxpayer security is one of our top priorities,” Garcia said.

When it comes to preventing ID theft, Garcia offered these tips:

  • Protect your information
  • Giving personal information only to people you trust
  • Do your homework before working with a CPA or tax preparer

Garcia adds criminals may have all the information to make a feasible return, but often there are red flags the agency picks up on.

“For example, let’s say every year you get $2,400, or maybe $3,200 refund every year, and then this year, all of a sudden you have all kinds of business expenses and all sorts of deductions and credits that you normally wouldn’t, well that sends up a big red flag for us and we’ll put a hold on that account,” Garcia said.

Garcia urges you to take action and call the number provided in the IRS correspondence if you received a letter or later learn you became a victim of tax-related identity theft.

“We don’t want you to be re-victimized so we have you fill out an identity theft affidavit, so we know we’re dealing with you,” Garcia said.

For those wanting to try to prevent this issue, it is suggested to sign up for an “identity protection pin.” To learn more and sign up, click here.

Harker is currently working through verifying her identity with the IRS.

“Just be cautious. I mean I think we just know it can happen to you at any point in time,” Harker said.

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