Attorney General's office warns consumers about tax ID theft scams
JEFFERSON CITY - More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year and Missouri's Attorney General office warns consumers to stay alert for tax fraud identity theft as the 2016 tax filing season begins.
The IRS expects more than 70 percent of taxpayers to again receive tax refunds this year. Last year, the IRS issued 109 million refunds, with an average refund of $2,797.
Joe Bindbeutel, Chief Counsel in the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's office, said tax ID fraud is the fastest growing fraud among identity theft in the last several years.
Yet, Bindbeutel said the Missouri Department of Revenue has stopped more than $100 million of fraudulent claims in the last couple of years. He said the best weapon against this crime is consumer education.
In 2015, more than $85.5 million in attempted fraudulent tax refunds were identified and prevented by the Missouri Department of Revenue — more than doubling the $39.9 million in 2014.
The Attorney General's office is expecting to see an "uptick" in theft this year, according to Bindbeutel.
"Once they have stolen enough of your identity, which is usually just your name and social security number, that's enough for them to try and file a tax return on your behalf, so consumers should be aware that this scam is out there and it is on the rise," Bindbeutel said.
Bindbeutel said any entity that pulls informtion of people together is subject to data attacks or breaches. He said older Missourians especially, are subject to these types of frauds.
Bindbeutel said the scams often revolve around electronic filing, so there is no paper trail back to this person that commits the scam.
"It can be done over and over again at very little cost to the scammer," Bindbeutel said.
Bindbeutel said if you believe you are potentially a victim of tax ID fraud, contact the Missouri Attorney General's office or the Missouri Department of Revenue.
In a recent news release, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said tax-related identity theft was the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission in 2014.
Here is helpful information from the press release:
How can I know if I am a victim?
- Be alert to possible tax fraud identity theft if you receive a notice or letter that states:
- More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
- Collection actions are taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return or did not owe money.
- IRS or DOR records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
- The IRS or DOR questions your claim information pertaining to your dependents.
- When using electronic filing software, you are unable to process your return.
Consumer tips and information
- File as early as you are able.
- Use only reputable electronic filing programs from respected vendors or tax return preparers.
- The IRS doesn't initially contact a taxpayer by email, text, or social media message. They will not ask for personal or financial information in this way. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to email@example.com. If you receive an unsolicited email or text that claims to be from DOR, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or any document with your Social Security number on it.
- Don’t give a business or medical provider your Social Security number just because they ask. Ask why it is needed and use another reference number if you can. Use your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary.
- Check your credit reports periodically.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam and virus software, update security patches, and change passwords for Internet accounts. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Don’t allow anyone remote access to your home computer unless that person is known to you.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have either initiated the contact or you are sure you know who is asking.
- Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to: email@example.com. For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call: 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting. For suspicious contacts which you suspect might be DOR imposters, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steps to take if you suspect you are a victim
- If you think someone used your Social Security number for a tax refund or a job, contact the IRS or DOR immediately.
- If the IRS or DOR sends you a notice about a problem, contact the agency immediately.
- If you suspect a tax return preparer filed a return or altered your return without your consent or you are seeking a change to your account, file a form with the IRS or contact DOR. The IRS will ask you to complete Form 14157 and Form 14157-A, and mail it to the address shown in the instructions.
- If you suspect that someone has taken over your electronic filing software account, please notify the Attorney General’s Office online.
- If your Social Security number is compromised and you suspect you are a victim of tax fraud identity theft, take these additional steps:
- For federal fraud, complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then mail or fax according to the instructions. You will be asked to send proof of your identity with your form.
- For Missouri tax fraud, report the incident to the Missouri Department of Revenue by completing Form 5593PDF document, and then send a scanned copy of the form and required documents to the DOR at email@example.com. You may fax or mail the forms instead.
- File a police report with your local police department online or in person. You will need a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit which you can access at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0094-identity-theft-affidavit.pdf, proof of the theft, a valid ID, proof of address, and the FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement.
- File a consumer complaint with the Office of the Missouri Attorney General and with the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
- Place a fraud alert with the three major credit reporting agencies. Consider placing a credit freeze. For more information, call 1-800-392-8222.