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identity theft

Identity Theft and Refund Fraud

July 17, 2015

Mailboxes, email, trash, computers, and phones are all sources for scammers to try to steal your personal information and file fraudulent tax returns in your name, using your social security number. They will use erroneous tax credits, deductions, and income figures to get the maximum refund possible.

To protect your money and identity, it’s smart to review tactics used by identity thieves when they attempt to steal your information. Below are some popular methods identity thieves have been using to victimize taxpayers:

Fake Emails

You receive an email from scammers that seem to be from a reputable institution such as the IRS or a bank. It will have the logo of the institute and may even have the signature of an “authority figure.” The trick is to entice you to click on the link(s). The link leads you to a fake webpage or a website where you are asked to share your personal information. Following this, the scammers have your information, which they can use to file false tax returns or conduct other financial crimes.

Text Messages and Chat Messages

Scammers send out unsolicited messages where they use the guise of a reputable institute or even the threat of police to dupe taxpayers into believing that they are legitimate. These messages often lead you to a website that is designed to elicit sensitive information from visitors.


Before throwing away packages or documents that have your name, address, and/or phone number, shred them first. Scammers are known to look for the personal information of people by scouring trash receptacles.


There have been reports of scammers stealing mail from individuals’ mailboxes in order to obtain their personal information. Postal correspondences may have sensitive information about a person, which can be damaging in the wrong hands.


Scammers often use sophisticated technology to steal personal information. Clicking on a link in a false email can cause malware to download to your computer or phone. Using a firewall and ignoring unsolicited emails can protect you from such attacks.

Staying Safe

Scammers attack taxpayers’ vulnerabilities. Here are some best practices to ensure that you insulate yourself from identity theft:

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or any document that has your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  • Only give your SSN or ITIN when necessary. Ask for credentials before sharing.
  • Keep your financial information protected.
  • Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • Review your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.
  • Use firewall and anti-spam/virus software on your computer(s). Don’t share your passwords for Internet accounts.
  • Don’t give out your personal information over the phone, through email, or online to unsolicited communications with unverified people/companies.

Getting Help

If you find that someone has stolen your personal information, report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), file a report with your local police department, place a fraud alert and get your credit report, and, if possible, call the company/website/place where the fraud occurred.

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