I know this from personal experience. A few years ago, after sending in a check to the Internal Revenue Service, I received notice that I had already filed. I only found out when my mortgage company called to notify me that the IRS was showing two different 1040s filed under my Social Security number. They attempted to send the check back to an address that wasn’t mine, but luckily the address was phony and didn’t belong to anyone else, either.
What happened to me is part of an alarming trend of tax identity fraud that is sweeping the country, including the arrest of over 50 individuals in the Atlanta area alone.
After I became suspicious about my own taxes, I called the Internal Revenue Service and somebody there was able to verify that there was another return filed using my name and Social Security number. With that started a whole new chapter of my life.
The first thing the IRS does is freeze everything and start an investigation. They also gave me the number to a tax advocate. There was no cost for it, and he immediately started working with the IRS. He also helped me with my other accounts by giving me an exhaustive list of loose ends to tie up, like calling credit card companies and credit reporting agencies to freeze my credit.
After about 10 weeks, I received a special PIN from the IRS, in the postal “snail” mail, which I would have to use for all correspondences for that tax year - and they would send me a new PIN every year.
As I dug deeper into what had happened, I saw that nothing had been touched other than the tax return. I was lucky. Well, maybe “lucky” is a stretch; it took about 19 months to resolve the matter in its entirety.
The lesson I hope to bring to you is to be safe with your personal information, whether you file a paper return or an electronic one. Here are some tips from the IRS website on how to do so:
Was it a pain in the neck dealing with tax return identity fraud? That’s putting it mildly. It took days of my time to check all of my credit records and to freeze my accounts, and later to unfreeze them when I was making some significant purchases that required financing. And despite a hefty tax penalty that was later rescinded, with the help of my tax advocate I made it through to the other side.
If you suspect that you are the victim of tax return fraud, visit the IRS FAQ.
Has anyone close to you experienced identity theft?