Identity Thieves Stealing Tax Refunds
Identity thieves are filing tax returns in North Carolina consumers' names in order to claim their refunds, according to Attorney General Roy Cooper.
"ID thieves will use your personal information to open accounts in your name or even to steal your tax refund," Cooper said in a news release. "Guard your personal information carefully and check your credit report regularly to protect yourself."
Identity thieves are using stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns. Consumers usually don't know that they're a victim of the scam until they try to file their tax returns and learn from the Internal Revenue Service that someone has already filed in their name - and claimed their refund.
The attorney general's office is hearing from as many as 15 victims of this form of identity theft a week, according to the news release. In most cases, the legitimate taxpayers are able to work with the IRS to straighten out their tax returns and get their refund.
Anyone who suspects that someone has falsely filed taxes in his or her name is urged to take the following steps:
n Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit immediately at (800) 908-4490.
n Check your credit reports for any unauthorized activity. You can get one free credit report per year from each of the three national credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.
n File an ID theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Cooper also urged consumers not to fall for scammers who send emails claiming to come from the IRS. Scams seeking to take advantage of taxpayers are especially common leading up to the April 15 personal income tax filing deadline.
One phony email reported to Cooper's office included a very official looking IRS logo and claims that the recipient owes a $10,000 "penalty for not filing the income tax return prior to January 31, 2012."
The message says that the penalty may be waived and prompts the consumer to click on a link and enter a website for more information.
"The IRS isn't going to email you for your personal information," Cooper warned. "No matter how real these messages appear to be, don't take the bait."
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