Protect yourself from tax-related identity theft

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- According to the credit reporting agency, TransUnion, the number of identity theft incidents has reached 9.9 million a year. Safeguarding personal information is one of the many ways to prevent identity theft from occurring. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/ Senior Airman Michael Smith)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- According to the credit reporting agency, TransUnion, the number of identity theft incidents has reached 9.9 million a year. Safeguarding personal information is one of the many ways to prevent identity theft from occurring. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/ Senior Airman Michael Smith)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- It's tax season, where most people pay what is due or get back what they rightfully earned. However, this filing season, there has been a surge in tax-related identity theft.  Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses stolen social security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.  Below are four tips to help protect you from tax-related identity theft:

· File taxes as soon as possible.  Do not procrastinate.  File before fraudsters have a chance to claim a refund using your identity.  By filing early, you beat them to the punch.

· Don't trust suspicious phone calls or e-mails.  The Internal Revenue Service does not initiate contact with taxpayers through e-mails, texts, social media messages or phone calls.  A swindler may contact potential victims through such means, claiming to be the IRS and asserting that the taxpayer owes money. They may also ask for bank account, credit card or other financial information.  This is not the way the IRS operates.  If the IRS notices an issue with your tax return, the agency will send you a notice via a letter.  If you get an e-mail that claims to be the IRS, do not reply or click on any links.  Instead, forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

· Make a habit of checking your credit history.  Free annual credit reports from each of the three credit reporting agencies are available at www.annualcreditreport.com.  By reviewing and verifying your accounts and transactions, you may pick up on any suspicious activities.

· Report anything suspicious.  Suspicious e-mails claiming to be from the IRS and strange notes on your credit report are all telltale signs of attempted fraud.
Other indicators of fraud include:  a notice from the IRS that you filed more than one tax return or that someone has already filed using your information, or a notice that you have a mysterious balance due or that you received wages from an employer that you have not worked for.

If you think someone has used your social security number for a tax refund or a job, or the IRS sends you a notice indicating a problem, contact the IRS immediately,  by calling Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.  Specialists will help you file your tax return, get you any refund you are due and protect your IRS account from identity thieves in the future.

Remember that taxes are due by April 15, 2015.  For more information, or if you suspect that you may be the victim of tax-related identity theft, please contact the base legal office at 325-654-3203.

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