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Sunday February 1, 2015

Washington News

Washington Hotline

IRS Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

As the tax-filing season opens, the IRS has offered eight “tax tips” for your protection.

1. Social Security Number – Do not carry your Social Security card or other identification items that contain a Social Security number in a wallet or purse. If you have an Individual Taxpayer Identity Number (ITIN), you should also protect it.

2. Protect SSN – Do not give out your Social Security number to stores or businesses unless there is a specific need.

3. Financial Information – Attempt to protect your financial information and do not give out your banking information to anyone without a specific reason or requirement.

4. Credit Report – You should check your credit report each year with one of the major agencies.

5. SSN Earnings Statement – Each year you should receive a report of your earnings from the Social Security Administration. Check that report for accuracy.

6. Personal Information – In your home or apartment, keep your sensitive personal information in a safe or locked cabinet.

7. Personal Computers – Everyone should use a virus-checking software program. You should update your operating system with security patches (some software companies automatically do that). It is also helpful to change the passwords periodically that are used for your banking or financial accounts.

8. Phone Solicitors – Do not give out your Social Security number, personal information or financial information over the phone.

There are several warning signs of a potential problem. If you are notified that more than one tax return was filed with your name, an identity thief might have been successful in an early filing. If you receive a request for tax due or a refund in a year where you were not required to file, that indicates someone else has filed using your name. Finally, if someone files and claims a large income and substantial tax refund, you may suffer a loss of your state or federal benefits.

There are several actions that you should take if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft.

1. Local Police – File a report with your local police department.

2. Federal Trade Commission – The FTC has an identity theft hotline at 877-438-4338.

3. Credit Bureau – You can request a “fraud alert” note on your record from Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) or TransUnion (800-680-7289).

4. Accounts – After notifying the bank or other financial institution, close any account that has been fraudulently accessed.

The IRS recommends that you file Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Even if you are subject to identity theft, there still is the obligation to file and pay your taxes. Many victims of identity theft choose to file a paper tax return for that year.

There also is a special identity theft protection unit within the IRS. The phone number is 800-908-4490.

Published January 30, 2015

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