The Norman Transcript

January 26, 2014

Avoiding identity theft scams

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The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Across the nation, identity thieves are using legitimate information to scam honest taxpayers, and frequently posing as the IRS to do so. The IRS has created the IRS Identity Theft Protection Unit to address the growing problem.

Being aware of some of the most common scams can help protect residents from having personal information used to commit fraud or other crimes.

· Phony IRS emails: In a “phishing” scam, an official-looking email shows an IRS logo that lures the consumer to a website that requests personal and financial information, such as a Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers. The IRS does not send out unsolicited emails and does not use email to ask for detailed personal or financial information. The only genuine IRS website is IRS.gov.

· Refund scam: A bogus email tells the recipient that he or she is eligible to receive a federal tax refund for a given amount (often $63.80) and sends the recipient to a website to complete a form to submit the tax refund request. The form asks for personal and financial information. The IRS does not notify taxpayers of refunds via email, and taxpayers do not have to complete a form or provide detailed financial information to obtain a refund. Refunds are based on information reported on the tax return.

· Antifraud Commission scam: The scammer sends an email stating the IRS “Antifraud Commission” has found that someone tried to pay their taxes through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS, using the email recipient’s credit card and some of the recipient’s money was lost and the remaining funds were blocked. The email includes a link that sends the recipient to a website where he or she is directed to enter personal and financial information to unblock their funds. The IRS does not have an Antifraud Commission and does not have the authority to freeze a taxpayer’s credit card or bank account because of potential theft or fraud perpetrated against the taxpayer.

Other email scams from fraudsters posing as IRS personnel include notifications of lottery winnings, a notice that more than one return was filed by the taxpayer and notification of W-2s received from an unknown employer.

Scams also can take the form of “assisting” taxpayers in filing returns to collect fraudulent refunds, promotion of tax evasion techniques or reporting false income for purposes of increasing refundable credits.

A taxpayer who believes there is a risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information should contact the IRS immediately so the agency can take action to secure the account. The taxpayer should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.

A taxpayer who believes they may have received a fraudulent or otherwise questionable communication related to taxes should contact a licensed tax professional. Enrolled agents are the only federally licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and also have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS.

That means that if you get a letter from the IRS, are audited or are the target of a collection action, your EA can speak directly to the IRS on your behalf. Find an EA in your area on the directory at naea.org.

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