With income tax time here again, I have heard more on identity theft over the last few weeks. There seems to be more reports of people filing taxes fraudently. There have been issues with some tax programs. And with all of this, we were filing my daughter's tax return this week and her return was rejected due to her social security number being used on another return already filed. So with that very fresh in my mind, here are some tips for you.
We spent all day Tuesday trying to reach the IRS, don't call on Monday's or the first day after a federal holiday! We called again Wednesday and got through fairly quickly. The IRS had caught the other return filed using my daughter's social security number and stopped it, so that helped. However, she now has to file her return by mail, with copies of her ID and it may take up to 180 days for the investigation.
I had another client about a year ago that we had trouble getting tax transcripts for. It turned out that they had been through the same issues as my daughter and their's was as simple as someone transposed the social security number on their tax return. My client had to do the same thing my daughter is going through – mail the return, show ID, etc.
If this happens to you, make sure you pull a credit report to see if they are trying to open any new accounts. We immediately pulled a credit report through www.annualcreditreport.com and she was able to determine that no one had tried to open any new credit in her name. Another source to try is www.creditkarma.com. I have not used this one, but have heard good things about it. Both are free, but creditkarma will also give you a credit score. Because you are the one initiating the inquiry and it is not for new credit, there is not an inquiry on your report.
The other suggestions from the IRS was to file a police report for identity theft. They also suggested contacting the social security administration and the Federal Trade Commission. There is additional information on the IRS website for identity theft.
The other spot to watch for is your bank account. If you see small withdrawals, a few cents one day and a little more the next, there is a good chance that someone has access to your account. If you see this, contact your bank immediately so you can stop it before it becomes a major problem. With the publicity of Target and Home Depot, along with several other companies, it has become more common to see identity theft.
Make sure you keep your personal information secure, don't give your social security number out to anyone unless you know why it's needed. When you are looking for a shopping for credit, make sure you are talking with a legitmate company. Don't email your social security number, call and give it to the person over the phone. Emails seem to be hacked more frequently and unless it is a secure email, you do not want to send that information via email.
There are many websites with information for identity theft, make sure if you are searching for information on it that you use a reputable site. The IRS site has good information, so does the social security administration and the FTC's site. If you are a victim of identity theft, you can also flag your credit report so no one can issue new credit without calling you first.