OKLAHOMA CITY – Recently, experts warned that thieves are already hard at work, trying to cash in on your tax refunds.
Officials say the crime spikes during tax season.
Just last year, it is estimated that thieves cashed in on billions of dollars worth of refunds.
This year, they say they are working to steal even more.
Melodee Adams recently learned she was a victim of tax fraud.
“I was shocked. It’s a little unnerving,” Adams said.
Two weeks ago, she received a letter from the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the IRS.
The letter asked her to submit her 2014 W-2 paperwork.
“Which was confusing to me because I hadn’t done my 2014 taxes yet, so I called them to see what was going on and they informed me that someone had already filed my taxes under my number,” Adams said.
The experience has caused quite a bit of stress for her, along with many others.
“I’m mad because my refund that I need for home repairs or whatever I have to wait six months for,” she said.
Anyone can fall victim, including certified public accountants.
Randy Thurman, a CPA, knows the frustrations all too well.
He was targeted several years ago.
Thurman says a hacker stole his information online and nearly ruined his credit.
“I was not a happy camper and it’s the time and the labor and being so upset that someone would do this,” Thurman said.
He says tax season is prime time for these criminals.
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.