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An identity thief may use your Social Security number (SSN) to get a tax refund or a job. This is tax-related identity theft. You may not know it has happened until:
If the IRS sends you a letter, follow the instructions in the letter. Then visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the identity theft to both the IRS and the FTC and get a recovery plan.
If someone uses your SSN to file for a tax refund before you do, here's what happens: When you file your return, IRS records will show that someone else has already filed and gotten a refund. If you file by mail, the IRS will send you a notice or letter in the mail saying that more than one return was filed for you. If you try to e-file, the IRS will reject your tax return as a duplicate filing.
If someone uses your SSN to get a job, the employer may report that person's income to the IRS using your SSN. When you file your tax return, you wouldn't have included those earnings. IRS records will show you failed to report all your income. The agency will send you a notice saying you had wages that you didn't report. But the IRS doesn't know those wages were reported by an employer you don't know, for work performed by someone else.
IRS notices about tax-related identity theft are sent by mail. The IRS doesn't initiate contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. The IRS also does not call taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests. And, the IRS will never ask you to wire money, pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card, or share your credit card information over the phone.
If you get an email, text, or other electronic message that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to email@example.com. And report IRS imposters to the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at tigta.gov.
If the IRS sends you a notice or letter saying that someone used your SSN to get a tax refund, or saying there's another problem, respond quickly and follow the instructions in the letter.
If you think someone used your SSN to file for a tax refund, but you haven't gotten a letter from the IRS, use IdentityTheft.gov to report it to the IRS and FTC and get a recovery plan.
Next, it's important to limit the potential damage from identity theft.
Visit IdentityTheft.gov for help with these important steps.
2019 was a big year for identity crime, which includes scams, fraud, data breaches, cybercrime, and all other types of crimes that go with it. Tech users are still feeling the aftermath of things like the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle that was uncovered last year, and Congress is still at work on what to do about consumer privacy in the social media age. Also, the fact that phishing attacks had more than doubled in 2018 over the year before had researchers, businesses, lawmakers and consumers alike paying closer attention to the messages they receive.
Fortunately, new legislation came along to make the privacy lives of consumers a little safer. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a game-changing data privacy law, went into effect in Europe in 2018 inflicting strict penalties on businesses that gather and store data but let it fall into the wrong hands. Soon new laws intent on strengthening privacy and consumer choice will be taking effect in California and Colorado. Best of all, the awareness of what constitutes these kinds of crimes and how to recognize them is increasing.
However, this welcome news does not mean that consumers are completely safe or that hackers are finally giving up. With every new platform, tool or technology, there is even greater potential for new avenues of attack. Healthcare providers and insurance companies continued to be one of the hardest-hit targets in 2019, thanks to the overwhelming amount of personally identifiable information (PII) they gather. "Accidental exposure" breaches, which can happen when businesses store huge databases of private information in an online server but fail to password protect them, were a common 2019 identity crime for major-name companies. Even entertainment was not safe, as many apps and online gaming portals suffered data breaches that were traced back to reusing passwords on multiple sites.
2019 did not only see a lot of large data breaches, but also settlements in data breach cases as well.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim is an awareness of the threat and some good privacy habits to prevent crimes like the 2019 identity crimes:
Consumers are not responsible for the criminal behaviors of a hacker. However, you can take steps that reduce your risk of becoming a victim and help minimize the damage if the worst does occur.
The Identity Theft Resource Center is a non-profit organization established to empower and guide consumers, victims, businesses and government to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime. Call them toll-free at 888-400-5530 or visit them at www.idtheftcenter.org for more information.
Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services