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Identity Theft and Taxes

As you all know, identity theft is a serious problem and is something that the IRS has made a top priority especially now during tax season. Identity theft happens when your personal information is lost or stolen. Sometimes you won't even know that you were a victim of identity theft until after you file you tax return. In this case, when you actually file your own personal tax return, the IRS does not accept it and notifies you that a return was already filed using your name and social security number. Below are several things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.

How To Avoid Becoming an Identity Theft Victim:

Guard your personal information. There are many ways identity thieves can get your personal information. Some of these ways include: stealing your wallet or purse, posing as someone who needs information about you, looking through your trash, or stealing information you provide to an unsecured website or in an unencrypted email.

Watch out for IRS impersonators. The IRS cautions citizens to be aware of IRS impersonators. The IRS has a policy that states it does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or social media to request personal or financial information, or to notify people of an audit, refund, or investigation. IRS impersonators may also use phone calls, faxes, websites or even in-person contacts. If you are ever suspicious that it is not really the IRS contacting you, do not respond. Visit the IRS Report Phishing web page to determine what to do.

Protect information on your computer. When you are preparing your tax return, be sure to protect it with a strong password. Once you e-file the return, take it off your hard drive and store it on a CD or flash drive in a safe place, such as a lock box or safe. If you use a tax preparer, be sure to ask how he/she will protect your information.

If you receive a lettter from the IRS stating that your identity may have been stolen, you may be notified that any of the following may have happened:

• You filed more than one tax return or someone has already filed using your information;

• You owe taxes for a year when you were not legally required to file and did not file; or

• You were paid wages from an employer where you did not work.

If you receive such a letter you should respond as quickly as possible using the contact information in the letter you received from the IRS. Once you have contacted the IRS they can begin to correct and secure your tax account.

If you think you may be at risk for identity theft due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity, an unexpected bad credit report or any other way, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit toll-free at 1-800-908-4490. The IRS will then take steps to secure your tax account. The Federal Trade Commission also has helpful information about reporting identity theft.

To reduce your risk and help protect yourself and your family of identity theft you should consider purchasing identity theft protection. There are a number of reputable companies available that can help you catch identity theft and fraud when and if you are ever a victim, and help you to regain your good name and credit. Generally speaking, these companies will monitor your Experian, Equifax®, and TransUnion® Credit Reports on a daily basis and will notify you with email alert notifications when key changes occur to your credit report. Other services include: Daily internet scanning for unauthorized use of your SSN, debit and credit cards; lost/stolen wallet protection that helps you replace your cards fast; and national change of address monitoring alerts (you are notified if someone changes your address). Visit ManagingMoney.com for a list of credit monitoring companies.

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