Scammers can use the sensitive personal information in your tax return to steal your identity and even take your tax refund. Here are some tips to minimize your risk:
- Make sure that anyone helping to prepare your taxes is trustworthy.
- File taxes early in the tax season to reduce the window of time in which a thief could fraudulently file under your Social Security number.
- If filing electronically, only submit forms through a secure Internet connection.
- If filing by mail, go to the post office directly to mail the envelope.
- Do not respond to email messages asking for your personal information that claim to be from the IRS. If the IRS needs to contact you, it will do so by mail.
An unexpected message from the IRS could be a tip off that an identity thief is misusing your Social Security number. Contact the IRS if you receive a notice that:
- More than one tax return was filed in your name
- IRS records show you were paid by an employer you don’t know
If you get such a message from the IRS or suspect that someone has stolen your Social Security number, call the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
Learn more about protecting yourself from tax-related identity theft.
Is your mailbox full of junk mail? Tired of telemarketers? Sick of spam? This guide can help you opt out of them.
The Federal Trade Commission released its top 10 complaint categories for 2012.
For the first time ever, the agency received more than two million complaints. Of the two million complaints, 18 percent were related to identity theft. Of those 18 percent, almost half were related to tax or wage fraud.
Here is a complete list of the top 10 complaint categories:
- Identity Theft - 369,132 complaints
- Debt collection - 199,721 complaints
- Banks and Lenders - 132,340 complaints
- Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales - 115,184 complaints
- Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries - 98,479 complaints
- Impostor Scams - 98,479 complaints
- Internet Services - 81,438 complaints
- Auto-Related Complaints - 78,062 complaints
- Telephone and Mobile Services - 76,783 complaints
- Credit Cards - 51,550 complaints
The FTC uses the Consumer Sentinel Network to record complaints throughout the year. The secure database is available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the country and helps agencies research cases and track targets.
Learn more about the 2012 complaints from FTC.
If you are thinking about buying or leasing a car, there’s a lot to consider before you make a final decision.
First, you need to decide what type of car will fit your needs and your budget. With so many choices available in the car market, setting a budget first helps you narrow down your search based on what you can afford.
Other important considerations include safety measures, fuel economy, and the credibility of the dealer or individual selling you the car.
- Safety: Many tests are done on car safety before any vehicles hit the roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are just two places you can check on a car’s safety rating and features. You can also find out from NHTSA if a vehicle has been recalled for safety defects.
- Title: If you’re buying from an individual seller, it is important to check on the title to make sure you are working with the actual vehicle owner. You can check on the title with your local Better Business Bureau. Just enter your zip code, and you’ll find an office to assist you. If you’re buying from a dealer, you can check on their credibility with your local consumer affairs office.
- Leasing: If you are considering leasing a car, make sure you ask the dealer for all of the financial information up front, including details on wear and tear standards, if there is a limit on how many miles you can drive a year, the manufacturers warranty and more.
- Financing: Whether you’re leasing or buying a car, most people have to do some type of financing when purchasing a vehicle. Two common types are direct lending or dealership financing. It’s important to do your research so you know which type of financing is right for you. The Federal Trade Commission explains your options and defines financing lingo so you can be prepared.
Learn more about what you should consider before buying a car.
You’re not the only one waiting for your tax refund. Scammers are looking for it too. In fact, every year there are more and more scams designed to steal tax refunds.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says these kinds of thefts have increased substantially in the last few years. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of investigations opened by the IRS grew from 224 to 898, according to the latest figures.
Find out more about tax refund scams, how to protect yourself from identity theft and what to do if you are a victim.
It All Starts with Identity Theft
Tax refund thefts usually begin when someone steals your personal information, such as your Social Security number. This is called identity theft.
To get your information, scammers use a technique called phishing, where a scammer tries to fool you into revealing your personal data.
This is how it works:
- They send you fake e-mail messages or websites pretending to be someone they’re not, such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration.
- They ask you to provide your personal or financial information such as your Social Security number or your credit card numbers.
Once they have the information they need, they file your taxes in your name and wait until they get your refund.
How to Protect Yourself
This is what you can do to protect yourself from this scam:
- The IRS does not initiate contact via e-mail with issues regarding your tax return.
- Be careful with websites that pretend to be the IRS. The official IRS website is http://www.irs.gov/
- If somebody calls you and says they are an employee of the IRS, take down their employee identification number and call 1-800-829-1040 to make sure the call is legitimate.
- Do not provide your Social Security number or other personal information to anybody you consider suspicious.
What to Do If You Are a Victim
Many taxpayers find out they’ve are victims of tax refund scams when they get a letter from the IRS saying their taxes have been filed twice. If you get such a letter, contact the IRS immediately to try to correct the situation.
You can find out the status of your tax return by visiting the official IRS website. You will be asked to provide personal information such as your Social Security number and the amount of your expected tax return.
If you would like assistance or would like to report identity theft, contact the IRS or call 1-800-908-4490.