April 8 2015

Authorities Warn of Tax Return Fraud

By: Rich Hosford

Authorities are warning of a tax return fraud that has been widespread the last couple of years and has been seen again in 2015. 


According to a press release from the FBI that was shared on social media by the Burlington Police Department, criminals are stealing people’s “personally identifiable information” and using it to electronically file tax returns that go into the criminal’s bank account or are paid to the criminal through pre-paid debit cards. 


The fraudsters use different methods to get the information needed to file the tax returns, authorities say, with the most popular methods being a computer intrusion, purchasing stolen information online, the theft of computers with the info, impersonating an agent of the Internal Revenue Service or bribing people who have access to people’s information. 


“Recent open source reporting indicates that cyber criminals also target and compromise legitimate online tax software accounts of individuals,” the FBI states. “Cyber criminals conducting this scheme modify victims’ bank accounts to divert transfers to bank accounts or pre-paid cards under their control.”


The release states that most of the time people are unaware they have been a victim of the fraud until they try to file their own tax returns and are notified by the IRS that their Social Security Number has already been used to file a tax return. 


“This type of fraud is a growing concern as the number of complaints filed has doubled from 2013 to 2014,” the FBI warns. 


If you believe you have been a victim of this scam, you should reach out to your local IRS or FBI field office, and you may file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.IC3.gov. Please provide any relevant information in your complaint.


Tips to protect yourself:


  • • Monitor your credit statements for any fraudulent activity.

  • • Report unauthorized transactions to your bank or credit card company as soon as possible.

  • • Review a copy of your credit report at least once a year.

  • • Be cautious of scams requiring you to provide your personal information.

  • • Do not open email or attachments from unknown individuals.

  • • Never provide credentials of any sort via email. This includes clicking on links sent via email. Always go to an official website.

  • • If you use online tax services, double check to ensure your bank account is accurately listed before and after you file your tax return.

  • • Ensure accounts that are no longer being utilized are properly deleted or scrubbed of sensitive information. Allowing online accounts to become dormant can be risky and make you more susceptible to tax fraud schemes.
 
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