ID thieves stealing tax refunds, warns AG Cooper
Release date: 2/27/2012
Consumers learn their ID has been stolen when they try to file with IRS
Raleigh: Identity thieves are filing tax returns in North Carolina consumers’ names in order to claim their refunds, Attorney General Roy Cooper warned Monday.
“ID thieves will use your personal information to open accounts in your name or even to steal your tax refund,” Cooper said. “Guard your personal information carefully and check your credit report regularly to protect yourself.”
Identity thieves are using stolen Social Security Numbers to file fraudulent tax returns. Consumers usually don’t know that they’re a victim of the scam until they try to file their tax returns and learn from the Internal Revenue Service that someone has already filed in their name—and claimed their refund.
Cooper’s office is hearing from as many 15 victims of this form of identity theft a week. In most cases, the legitimate taxpayers are able to work with the IRS to straighten out their tax returns and get their refund.
If you suspect that someone has falsely filed taxes in your name, take the following steps:
- Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit immediately at 1-800-908-4490.
- Check your credit reports for any unauthorized activity. You can get one free credit report per year from each of the three national credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Request a fraud alert from any of the three national credit bureaus.
- Consider a security freeze to stop access to new credit in your name. NC residents can get security freezes for free online.
- File an ID theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Cooper also urged consumers not to fall for scammers who send emails claiming to come from the IRS. Scams seeking to take advantage of taxpayers are especially common leading up to the April 15 personal income tax filing deadline.
One phony email reported to Cooper’s office this week includes a very official looking IRS logo and claims that the recipient owes a $10,000 “penalty for not filing the income tax return prior to January 31, 2012.” The message says that the penalty may be waived and prompts the consumer to click on a link and enter a website for more information.
Other fraudulent emails tell people that they are owed money by the IRS and ask them to provide their bank account number so they can receive a refund. The real IRS does not contact taxpayers by email.
The emails are a form of phishing. Phishing scams use emails, telephone calls, web sites and text messages that pretend to come from a legitimate organization such as the IRS or your bank and falsely claim to need your personal financial information.
“The IRS isn’t going to email you for your personal information,” Cooper warned. “No matter how real these messages appear to be, don’t take the bait.”
If you get a phishing email, do not respond, click on any links or provide any personal information. Phishing emails that claim to come from the IRS should be forwarded to email@example.com. Other phishing emails can be forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413