Make Tax Time Your Identity Theft Prevention Time

A few years ago the unthinkable happened to me. I went to my long-time accountant to complete my tax return and together we filed the return online. We finished up and chatted a few minutes. While I was still there, a message came back from the IRS that my return had been rejected. The message stated a return had already been filed in my name and that a refund had been issued. What? Someone scammed me, an attorney? And the IRS? You’re kidding!

Sadly, no one is immune from identity theft; it is quite common. Fortunately for me, it was limited to the tax return. The IRS was truly helpful and they accepted my true tax return. I signed forms that allowed the IRS to go after whoever it was who falsely collected funds in my name. Because of that incident, I can only mail in my tax returns with a special “pin” sent to me each year. I reported the violation to the three credit reporting agencies and I now have my credit report protected from outsiders. As an added protection, I purchased identity theft insurance. Hopefully, like any other insurance, I will never need to use it. 

Florida Department of Consumer Affairs recommends that anyone who is a victim of identity theft file a complaint with the FTC at www.identitytheft.gov and place a “Fraud Alert” with the three major credit bureaus: 

If the theft is with the tax return, cooperate with the IRS when they notify you. 

When individuals become weak or frail they may become even more susceptible to identity theft. We have seen large mortgages placed on homes and credit card balances run up. Loved ones have come to us, worried because of unscrupulous family or acquaintances, asking what they can do to prevent identity theft or abuse of the frail person’s credit. For them, it may be wise to preempt the problem by locking, freezing or placing a fraud alert on their credit report. Certain options are free while others may incur a small fee.  

There have been times when we’ve worked with our vulnerable clients to limit their control of their own accounts. We have done this using various legal documents. While this is an extreme step, when we have had to resort to this measure, we have seen it work well for them. Of course, our intent and goal should always be to protect the vulnerable individual.