Safe Family Report: Tax ID Theft

By: Paige Tebow
By: Paige Tebow

Tax time is upon us, and there's another good reason not to delay when filing your return: Thieves might try to steal your refund.

As electronic filing and direct-deposit refunds become more popular, the IRS says thieves are looking for instant gratification too.

"Thieves are looking to file with other people's Social Security Number, mainly to file for a quick refund or any refund,” says Sarah Rice of Sexton Tax Service in Denison. “Electronic filing makes it easier for them to receive those refunds quickly."

When they get your Social Security Number, they can file a false return and get paid almost immediately with a "refund anticipation loan," a high interest advance loan. You get stuck with nothing.

"If they file with your Social Security Number, the main thing that could happen is it could be an inconvenience for you as a tax payer,” Rice says. “You could have to mail your tax return in, and it takes longer for you to get your refund."

Here’s how it can happen: You file your return with a tax preparer. The IRS red-flags you when they find out another return has already been filed in your name. That's when you must contact local police, as well as the IRS investigating division, credit bureaus and anyone else you can think of.

Where do these thieves find your Social Security Number? Just about any worker at a commercial tax preparer can call up hundreds of them in seconds.

“Be sure and safeguard your information,” she says. “You need to be sure and use a reputable tax professional. You need to make sure it's somebody who's going to be there next year when you need them. There's a lot of tax professionals that are there one day and gone the next. You need to make sure it's someone established and someone that's definitely going to take care of your information like it should be."

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