Once again, that time of year approaches when many Americans are looking forward to their “Big Payout”. As you know, income earners in the U.S. are required to pay taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) annually on or before April 15th. Many Americans look forward to this season because of the lump sum of money they expect to receive in return for over payment of taxes throughout the previous tax year. For this same reason, predators may be inclined to use the Social Security number, Tax ID number, or other personal identity information to fraudulently file with the hopes of receiving funds that are meant for someone else.
“Often imitated, never duplicated” is a well known cliché that is often passed around in conversations, publications, and communication pertaining to business, branding, and even personal swagger. In most cases imitation is considered the sincerest form of flattery, however, when it comes to your identity and personal information, imitation and duplication are highly illegal. Pretending to be someone you’re not is also known as identity fraud and is an all too common scam that can have lasting effects on your credit history. This type of scam is particularly prevalent during tax season. According to the Fair Trade Commission, tax identity theft happens when someone gets a tax refund or a job using a Social Security number that is not legally assigned to them.
Here are a few tips to help you equip and protect yourself during this season and throughout the year:
- Check your credit card and bank statements regularly and avoid questionable links or sites.
- List all of your credit card and financial account numbers along with expiration dates and pertinent phone numbers and company contact information. This information should be filed in a secure place. This practice will allow you to alert your creditors quickly in order to prevent possible identity theft if your purse or wallet is ever lost or stolen.
- Monitor your credit regularly. Not only will this keep you on track towards LuxuriousCREDIT, it can also prompt you sooner than later in the event your personal information is compromised.
- Be cautious with your personal information and aware of contacts and solicitations from potential scammers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that Internal Revenue Service imposters are the #1 imposter scam and they’re on the rise. Fake agents using fake caller ID that may appear official and actually say “IRS” are contacting individuals demanding payments in the form of prepaid cards or wire transfers. These scammers may know several pieces of your personal information to include the last four digits of your Social Security number. They may even threaten and try to scare you with promises of wage garnishment, bank account levies, deportation, or worse. The best way to protect yourself from such fraud is to know the facts and know your rights.
- Familiarize yourself with what should be appearing on your credit report. Credit monitoring services are a great tool in this regard and can help prevent identity theft by alerting you when changes appear on your credit report.
- The IRS will always initiate contact by postal letter, not a phone call. The IRS will never ask for payment in the form of prepaid cards or wire transfers, neither will they ask for your credit card information over the phone. If you receive such a call you can help put an end to this type of fraud by contacting the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at gov. You may also file a formal complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Finally, you can always contact the IRS directly by calling 800-829-1040.
Along with tax season comes an influx in tax related fraud. Once the annual tax filing deadline has passed it is reasonable to expect a decrease in the number of tax and refund related fraud incidents. However, identity theft and fraud will hardly disappear with the passing of tax season. With the constant innovation and invention of new, faster, more convenient, and automated ways to use technology to meet our personal and business commerce needs comes the inevitable advent of new ways for crooks to exploit those advancements. As the IRS and other agencies crack down on identity and tax fraud, thieves are steadily searching for new ways to turn a profit.
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