Avoid ID theft of your tax return

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's tax season, and the IRS says identity theft is a constant problem. Crooks are always trying to get their hands on your personal information and your tax refund. Hopefully, you've never been a victim of tax ID theft.  If you have, it can be a nightmare to repair the problem.

Special Agent Joy Cuffee, says there's been an increase in cases. In response, the agency is stepping up efforts to prevent the crimes. Those initiatives include more employees working to spot schemes, developing more secure programs for taxpayers, and working quicker to resolve cases. "Some of the people who conduct these schemes, they are very resourceful with how they are able to gather the information. Here locally, we had a gentleman who was sentenced to 48 months in prison for using personal identifiable information of federal prison inmates," Cuffee says.

IRS.gov is a great resource to find safety tips and information about what you should do if you suspect you are, or you become a victim. Cuffee says crooks are usually after one thing, your refund. "They will take your personal identifiable information and then they will fill out a return without your knowledge,  requesting ay amount of a federal tax refund in your name," she says.

There are number of ways the crooks can steal your information: you could be the victim of a data breach, a phishing email, or maybe your wallet was stolen. It's important to act quickly if you think your information has been compromised. The IRS also wants you to know arrests are being made. "We are actually able to catch these people and track them down. There are many ways we are able to link a particular tax return to where it's been filed, to whose field it, etc," Cuffee explains.

Keep these tips in mind: don't carry your Social Security Card with you, don't give out personal information in the mail, over phone, or through email unless you are 100 percent sure the person you are dealing with is legit and you initiated the contact.  Also, check your credit report every 12 months. "We try to not just solve the investigation for one particular individual, but we try to link them to other individuals whose identities may have been compromised," Cuffee says.

Remember, the IRS will not initiate contact with you in an email requesting personal information or alerting you that you have a refund or that you're being audited. If you get one of these emails, it's a scam, report it to phising@irs.gov. The IRS also says,  taxpayers may not know they are a victim until they file a return and discover two returns have been filed using the same social security number.

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