Watch Out for Fake IRS Emails Designed to Steal Your Identity

I recently received the following email from my CPA warning me to guard against a current wave of emails being sent to unsuspecting recipients designed for identity theft. I just wanted to pass it along.

Here’s what she wrote.

“I have been attending my continuing education classes and in each one, identity theft is a major topic. It is the number one unreported issue in tax season 2011. The IRS has issued $754 million in erroneous tax refunds and the GAO said that figure is only a fraction of the total amount of refund fraud.

Many victims of identity theft click on e-mails that purport to be from the IRS and then they provide personal information. The IRS never sends notices of refunds or audits by e-mail and never asks for data in an e-mail.

If your identity is stolen, then let me know as soon as possible. The IRS has procedures in place to issue you a temporary ID and will suspend your social security number for tax filing purposes.

On another note, one of my instructors said that something you can do to protect yourself is to put a Credit Freeze with the three credit bureaus. There is a fee of $10 each for Oregon residents (AZ is only $5). It does not affect any of your current loans or credit cards. But if someone tries to open a charge card or get a loan in your name, it will prevent that. If you do want to open a new credit card, you will have to go in and unfreeze it.

This instructor recommends putting Freezes on your children and grandchildren’s accounts. Until they are ready to go off on their own, they don’t need to be borrowing money anyway. I plan to get my grandson’s account frozen as well.

I personally have taken his advice. I went through the process and put a freeze with Equifax, Trans Union and Experian today. I did not have any problem doing it with Trans Union and Equifax. But on Experian, it would not let me do it on-line, so I had to print out a form and mail it in with a check. Experian asks you 5 tricky questions. Dennis and I both flunked our tests with them! Maybe you will have better luck if you decide to try it.

I have no plans to open additional credit cards and have no plans to borrow any money. If that changes in the future, it is easy to go back in and unfreeze my account. Of course, I am sure I will have to pay the fees again.

One other piece of information I want to pass on is that when a taxpayer dies, the death is reported, with their date of death and their social security number in some sort of registry. It is mandated by law and that information, is out on the internet for any identity theft person to retrieve. So the instructor recommends filing the final 1040 tax return as soon as possible. In the past, Tax Prepares always waited until year-end to get all the final tax documents. So if you have a death of a loved one, let me know as soon as possible and let’s discuss if it is practical to get the documents and file that final tax return ASAP.”

Hopefully this helps.