Chief Richard E. Smith and the Wakefield Police Department would like to offer a few tips on how to best keep your personal information safe during the tax season, which can be a time of increased “targets of opportunity” for online hackers.
In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement actions. Being able to recognize these tell-tale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim. Learning you are a victim of identity theft can be a stressful event. Identity theft is also a challenge to businesses, organizations and government agencies, including the IRS. Many times, you may not be aware that someone has stolen your identity. The IRS may be the first to let you know you’re a victim of ID theft after you try to file your taxes.
Here are a few key points for tax season and beyond:
Protect your Records. Do not carry your Social Security card or other documents with your SSN on them. Only provide your SSN if it’s necessary and you know the person requesting it. Protect your personal information at home and protect your computers with anti-spam and anti-virus software. Routinely change passwords for Internet accounts.
Don’t Fall for Scams. The IRS will not call you to demand immediate payment, nor will it call about taxes owed without first mailing you a bill. Beware of threatening phone calls from someone claiming to be from the IRS. If you have no reason to believe you owe taxes, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484.
Report ID Theft to Law Enforcement. If your SSN was compromised and you think you may be the victim of tax-related ID theft, file a police report with us. You can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant. It’s also important to contact one of the three credit bureaus so they can place a freeze on your account.
Complete an IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit. Once you’ve filed a police report, file an IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit. Print the form and mail or fax it according to the instructions. Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
Understand IRS Notices. Once the IRS verifies a taxpayer’s identity, the agency will mail a particular letter to the taxpayer. The notice says that the IRS is monitoring the taxpayer’s account. Some notices may contain a unique Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) for tax filing purposes.
IP PINs. If a taxpayer reports that they are a victim of ID theft or the IRS identifies a taxpayer as being a victim, they will be issued an IP PIN. The IP PIN is a unique six-digit number that a victim of ID theft uses to file a tax return.
Data Breaches. If you learn about a data breach that may have compromised your personal information, keep in mind not every data breach results in identity theft. Further, not every identity theft case involves taxes. Make sure you know what kind of information has been stolen so you can take the appropriate steps before contacting the proper authorities.
Report Suspicious Activity. If you suspect or know of an individual or business that is committing tax fraud, you can visit IRS.gov and follow the chart on How to Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity and notify the police department.