It happens to people everyday and consumer identity theft fraud is on the rise in 2015. Someone stole my Social Security Number AND my tax refund. Instead of receiving my long overdue refund I got a letter from the IRS claiming I filed two tax returns that year. What? I think I would have remembered that. When I found out that the IRS sent MY refund check to a ‘Jose Martinez,’ I wanted to scream into the phone, “Do I sound like I am “Jose Martinez?” This Jose suddenly had my Social Security Number, a different mailing address, and was using it and my refund check all over town. The IRS agent I spoke to seemed to think it was an undocumented alien. Who knows? And who knows how he, or she, got hold of my personal information? I want to think he made it up, just pulled numbers out of his hat, because it is just too scary to think that someone had been going through my garbage or mail.
The problem is I don’t know, and you won’t either if it happens to you. There are so many ways for identity thieves to get your information: an unsecured mailbox on the street, in the garbage bin, or something you leave laying around. And of course, there is the Internet and e-mail.
Speaking of tax refunds and the Internal Revenue Service, have you heard about the latest phishing scam? You open your e-mail inbox to find a fantastic bit of good news from the Internal Revenue Service. WOW! Can this be for real? The IRS wants to give you money – you’re eligible for a special tax refund. It’s easy – just click on the link in the e-mail and fill in your personal and financial information. You’ve heard the old line – if it seems too good to be true, it is? This is a scheme designed to trick you into disclosing your personal and financial data. The practice is called “phishing” for information — like tossing a line out and hoping someone will bite. (Read more below in “Fraud Alert: Fake IRS emails” and “How phishing works.”)
The IRS does NOT send out e-mail messages like this – it does not phish for information via unsolicited e-mail – NOT EVER. Additionally, taxpayers do not have to complete a special form to obtain a refund any time. The IRS explains on the ‘official website’ that if you receive an unsolicited e-mail from someone purporting to be the IRS, take the following steps:
1. Do not open any attachments to the e-mail in case they contain malicious code that will infect your computer; and
2. Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine whether the IRS is trying to contact you about a tax refund.
For more tips on some of the latest scams check out the IRS website. It happened to me, and it could happen to you. Protect your personal and financial data.
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