identity theft is a scam that can hit you from all
directions. And tax fraud lightning can strike twice,
fraud is again a hot topic this tax season. And we still
have more than a month until April 18, the filing
deadline for most taxpayers this year.
Internal Revenue Service even had to halt the online
service it has in place to help protect tax filers who
were fraud victims in earlier years. Cyber crooks had
figured out a way to break into that system and
re-victimize some of those same taxpayers. The crooks
are just that daring.
taxpayers are already worried they’re going to get hit
again this tax season. Some already know it.
hearing more stories of other hacks this tax season,
too, including the IRS admitting that many have been
victimized via a transcript fiasco.
Duquesnel, president and CEO of the Better Business
Bureau serving eastern Michigan, was a tax fraud victim
was a victim of the massive cyber security breach at the
U.S. Office of Personnel Management. She worked decades
ago for the Small Business Administration and her
information was still in the organization’s database
despite her changing jobs years ago. Her personal ID,
including Social Security number, was one of millions of
IDs in the federal data base hacked last year.
is convinced that’s how a con artist was able to craft
a tax return last tax season using her Social Security
number and other key information. In reality, Duquesnel
and her husband were owed a very small refund of less
than $15 last year. But crooks filing fake returns claim
generous tax credits to cook up inflated tax refunds.
and her husband are now preparing for what could happen
this tax season. They’re in contact with their tax
preparer, as well as a taxpayer advocate service
representative at the IRS.
a victim, it can be possible to be a victim again.
still have the numbers," Duquesnel said.
some cases, she said, it can turn into a game for the
con artists of, "Let’s just see if this works
Ball, the owner of The Taxlady & Co. in Wyandotte,
Mich., said consumers must take several steps if they
run into tax-related ID fraud. She tells clients to put
a fraud alert on their credit reports by contacting one
of the three major credit reporting agencies.
fraud victims also should contact any institution that
would be directly affected by the fraud, she said. That
includes contacting the IRS tax fraud hotline at
steps include filing an affidavit with the Federal Trade
Commission and filing a police report with local law
Ciaramitaro, vice president of tax products for H&R
Block, said it can take anywhere from six months to a
year for some tax refund victims to get their own tax
refunds as the ID theft mess is investigated.
Levin, a former director of the New Jersey Division of
Consumer Affairs and founder of Identity Theft 911, said
cyber crooks are working at every level to gain Social
Security numbers and other data to use to file a fake
syndicates and others are unlikely to give up on tax
refund fraud, Levin said, because there’s "too
much money in it."
said tax filers need to watch out for a variety of clues
this season relating to tax ID theft:
Some tax filers see that their tax return is
automatically rejected when they file online. A crook
has beat them to it and used their Social Security
number to file a fake return with an inflated fraudulent
Or someone waits for a tax refund to show up in a
mailbox or bank account but no refund arrives.
Or in some cases, the IRS alerts you to
employment-related ID theft. The IRS says you didn’t
pay enough in taxes because you under-reported your
income from a job where you’ve never worked in your
IRS has issued IP PINS to 2.7 million tax ID theft
victims. This six-digit PIN is then used on the
following year’s tax return so the IRS can accept that
return as a legitimate return — not something filed by
an online tool that’s used by people who lost their IP
PIN numbers seems to be too easy for the cyber crooks to
use. The online questions apply to personal financial
information about you, such as where you lived in the
past and what size of mortgage you held at one time.
of that data, though, can be found elsewhere by the
crooks either legitimately or through stolen databases.
crack down on the cyber thieves, the IRS recently stated
on its website that its online IP PIN tool is no longer
available until further notice.
IRS said that this year about 5 percent of the people
with PINs — or 130,000 accounts — had used the
online tool to retrieve lost or forgotten IP PIN
of the end of February, the IRS said it had stopped
about 800 attempts to use stolen IP PIN numbers to file
fraudulent tax returns.
Quinn, 33, was a victim last tax season — and she’s
already discovered someone filed a tax return using her
ID this tax season, as well.
year, Quinn’s $8,000 tax refund was hijacked after
someone hacked into a system and stole her refund before
it could be directly deposited. After a long battle, she
got her money.
January, Quinn, who lives in the Hudson Valley region in
New York, said she tried to file her return online when
tax season opened. The idea was to file a return as
quickly as possible to beat the cyber crooks who wanted
to impersonate her.
legitimate tax return was immediately rejected. The IRS
already had another return on file with her Social
crooks beat her to it.
this year, she’s stuck waiting for federal and state
income tax refunds totaling about $9,300.
feel like if it hasn’t happened to them, it won’t
happen to them," Quinn said. "It can happen to
anyone any time in any way."