Consumer Corner Column

Consumer Corner: Tax filing season brings threat of identity theft

Release Date: Feb 28, 2013

By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt

Identity thieves are constantly looking for new ways to separate you from your hard-earned money.

You may know about the typical identity theft scheme that might involve someone stealing your credit card and racking-up thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges. But with income tax filing season upon us, we are seeing a new type of identity theft.

Identity thieves are finding ways to use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity and personal information to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund, according to the Internal Revenue Service. With the speed and efficiency of electronic tax filing, the victim is usually not aware of the incident until notified by the IRS that more than one return was filed in his or her name, or that he or she has a discrepancy in taxable earnings and employer identification information. By that time, your tax refund is often already in the hands of the scam artist.

Here are some tips to help protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft:

  • Protect your Social Security number (SSN). Don't carry your Social Security card or other documentation with your SSN on it. Provide your SSN only when required, such as filing taxes or applying for a loan. Be wary of websites or retailers that request this information.
  • Protect important financial and personal information. Personal financial documents and past years’ tax returns should be kept in a secure location such as a locked filing cabinet or a fire safe box.
  • Protect your personal computer files by installing firewalls and anti-spam/virus software. It's also extremely important to periodically change your computer and Internet passwords.
  • Check your credit report annually. Monitoring your credit report helps make you aware of unusual or unauthorized activity and can alert you to possible identity theft.
  • Never share your personal information online, on the phone or through the mail, unless you initiated the contact and are 100 percent certain of that person’s identity.

If you receive a notice from the IRS or suspect your identity has been falsely used to claim a tax refund, you can visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov  for instructions on proper reporting procedures. 

Any time you suspect you might be a victim of identity theft or other financial scams or fraud, contact the Kansas Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-432-2310 or www.ag.ks.gov.

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