Tax troubles: Simple ways to protect yourself from tax refund fraud

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Tax season is upon us, which means that many Oklahomans will be scrambling to get their taxes done in the next few weeks.

However, experts warn that thieves are also working to steal your refunds.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country and tax refund fraud is a major challenge facing taxpayers.

According to a Government Accountability Office report, fraudulent tax refunds were estimated at $5.2 billion for the 2013 tax filing season.

Identity thieves use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.

Many taxpayers won’t know their identities have been stolen until they file a duplicate.

The Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants offer the following advice to help you protect yourself against tax return and identity theft.

Be alert if you receive an IRS notice or letter that states any of the following:

  • More than one tax return for your Social Security number was filed.
  • You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate wages received from an unknown employer.

The IRS recommends you take the following steps to protect your financial information:

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone, via the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know exactly with whom you are speaking.
  • Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • Secure personal and financial information.
  • Use firewalls and virus software, update security patches and periodically change passwords for Internet accounts on your personal computer.

If you have become a victim of identity theft, the IRS recommends the following:

  • Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490 x245 so that steps can be taken to secure your tax account.
  • Report ID theft incidents to the Federal Trade Commission or the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at (877) 438-4338.
  • File a report with the local police.
  • Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax at (800) 525-6285, Experian at (888) 397-3742 and TransUnion at (800) 680-7289.
  • Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.

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