Consumer Watch: Tax season identity theft


by Andy Treinen

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 6:22 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- First, Target's holiday season data breach snared as many as 110 million shoppers. Then, Neiman Marcus confirmed it was the target of cybercrime involving customers' credit cards. Now, it's another Christmas of sorts for hackers: Tax time.

The Federal Trade Commission said tax-related complaints made up 43 percent of identity theft complaints in 2012.

Tim Rorbaugh of identity theft prevention firm Intersections said even one piece of stolen information can be useful to a cybercrook.

"They're taking a piece of our data elements and creating a new identity, and so when that new identity is used to open an account, it's not necessarily going to be flagged to you immediately,” Rohrbaugh said. When information isn't tied to one person or address, Rohrbaugh says identity theft is more difficult to detect.

Intersections offers these potential tip-offs to tax-related scams:
-- Receiving a W-2 from an unknown employer
-- A mysterious balance due or even a refund owed
-- Claims of unreported income (Thieves use a stolen social security number to report income they earned, and send the  tax bill elsewhere)
-- An IRS letter stating more than one return has been filed in your name

Rohrbaugh says scammers like to file early. “They'll file in your identity early. They'll get the refund and you won't know about it until you file later or file on April 15,” he said.

While heightened awareness is important during tax time or when a major breach takes place, stay vigilant year-round.

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