Log In   ·   Become A Member

Tax Refunds Are Vulnerable To Identity Theft

Rocco A. Carriero

Hollywood may have just produced a film playing on the issue, but real identity theft is no laughing matter. Victims are devastated by decimated bank accounts, destroyed credit scores and an intrusion on their privacy. Our growing reliance on electronic data and systems has increased our vulnerability and created new opportunities for identity theft in unexpected places—including your federal tax refund.

According to the House of Representative's Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, identity theft-related tax fraud is a growing problem. The crime works like this: a thief steals a Social Security number and then diverts the individual's tax refund into a personal account that is quickly drained before the victim is aware of the theft. The fraud may not be discovered until the taxpayer attempts to file a return or claim a refund, and it can take months for the IRS to investigate and return the funds to the rightful owner.

The IRS has recently doubled its efforts to prevent this type of fraud and address victim concerns, but you should also take some steps to protect yourself. Your best defense is to prevent your personal financial information from falling into the wrong hands. Here are some guidelines for protecting yourself from tax refund fraud.

Protect your Social Security number. Your government-issued identification is prized information to thieves intent on opening fake accounts and claiming refunds that don't belong to them. Keep your card in a safe place in your home rather than in your wallet and don't provide your number unless absolutely necessary.

Monitor your financial accounts. Check your account balances and transactions regularly to spot unauthorized activity.

Check your credit reports. You are entitled to a free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion and Equifax. If you notice adverse credit actions or accounts that you did not open yourself, take action.

Keep financial documents secure. Keep hard copies of your returns under lock and key, and shred statements you no longer need. Criminals have been known to go through personal trash in pursuit of financial records.

Take extra care online. Maintain a firewall on your personal computer and avoid accessing your financial information on open networks. Clear your browser history and "cookies" (the little files that remember passwords or previous visits to websites) before and after e-filing your taxes or visiting financial sites that contain your private information.

Beware phishing schemes. "Phishing" is a method of falsely soliciting information with criminal intent. Identity thieves have become more sophisticated, using design programs to replicate logos and create emails and even websites that look legitimate, but are not. If you receive an email that appears to be from the IRS—or any institution, for that matter—that contains a request for your social security number or financial accounts, it is probably a phishing scam that should be forwarded to the agency it is attempting to represent.

Contact the proper authorities if you suspect you've been a victim of identity theft. If your tax refund is involved, notify the IRS by completing IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (form 14039), which can be found at irs.gov. Also contact your bank, credit card companies and the local police. Talk to your financial advisor for additional help establishing safeguards for your financial information.


Rocco is a Private Wealth Advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Southampton, NY. He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for over 13 years. Advisors is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of NY, NJ, TX, MA, PA, NC, NH, UT, NV, CA, NM, WA, VT, MS, MD, RI, FL, MO, SC, GA, MN, CT, AZ. Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation. Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. www.roccocarriero.com


Be the first to comment on this article. (Just fill out the form below)
 

Submit Your Comment

Please note, you are not currently logged in. Your comment will be submitted as a guest.
To submit your comment as a member, please click here.
Your Name:
Location:*
Comments:*
* Comments will be reviewed and posted in a timely fashion
* All fields are required
Question:*
Please type the word 'water'
(For spam prevention, thanks)
 
 
 
http://www.hamptons.com/gallery/ads/2143.gif
http://www.hamptons.com/gallery/ads/1824.gif
Bridgehampton National Bank
For over 100 years Bridgehampton National Bank has been the East End's hometown bank. Many success stories...one bank, BNB!

Advertise on Hamptons.com - Have your business be seen by over 2 million viewers including NEW searches
Hamptons.com- Our exclusive online magazine has 2.6 million Page Views YTD for 2015. Contact us to join our elite group of clients that benefit from having a presence on the Hamptons award winning publication www.Hamptons.com

Hamptons Carpet One Floor & Home
We pay less,and so do you.With over 1,000 stores in our buying group, we can get the lowest prices from the best flooring manufacturers — and pass the savings on to you.Visit our other locations: Hamptons Carpet One Floor & Home, 675 North Sea Road,Southampton, NY 11968

D+J Concepts is known for a high-end cutting edge approach to design.
D+J Concepts is known for a high-end cutting edge approach to design with a balance between functionality and imagination. We skillfully and tastefully transform ordinary spaces into classic modern styles, which are understated, and luxe. We’re known for our modern transitional style incorporating antiques and modern elements for an unexpected edge.

Hamptons luxury real estate specialist for 33 years, Andrea Ackerman offers outstanding expertise in the field.
Hamptons luxury real estate specialist for 33 years, Andrea Ackerman offers outstanding expertise in the field. Trusted, experienced and successful, Andrea has solidified herself as the go-to broker of the Hamptons and a wholehearted advocate for her clients. A pioneer in the real estate industry on the East End of Long Island, she is driven by her passion for the business. Andrea is based in the Bridgehampton office of Brown Harris Stevens as a licensed real estate associate broker and consultant. Formerly, a principal partner and Senior Director at Brown Harris Stevens, Andrea now assists in developing their corporate strategy for the Hamptons region, advising other brokers and sales associates, as well as being one of the top producers and listors.