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Identity theft

Your Tax Preparer

D. David Hebebrand CPA.

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a taxpayer's stolen Social Security number and name to file a tax return to claim a fraudulent refund. Often the taxpayer doesn't know this has occurred until they try to file a legitimate tax return and have their return rejected with an error code stating that a return has already been filed using that name and Social Security number. This article discusses the steps to take when a taxpayer's identity has been stolen, along with helpful suggestions to avoid identity theft.

Steps to take when a victim of identity theft

• File a police report.

• File a FTC complaint at http://www.ftc.gov and learn how to respond to it at identitytheft.gov.

• Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records – Equifaxhttp://www.Equifax.com (800) 525-6285; Experianhttp://www.Experian.com (888) 397-3742; TransUnionhttp://www.TransUnion.com (800) 680-7289.

• Contact your financial institutions and close any accounts opened without your permission, or accounts that have been tampered with.

If your Social Security number is compromised, and you suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, take these additional steps:

• Respond immediately to any IRS notice and call the number provided.

• Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Use a fillable form at http://www.irs.gov, print then mail or FAX according to the instructions on the form.

• Continue to pay taxes and file paper tax returns if your electronically filed tax returns are rejected.

• If you previously contacted the IRS and did not obtain a resolution, contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit.

How to reduce the risk of identity theft

• Don't carry a Social Security card or anything with that number on it.

• Don't give your Social Security number just because someone asks for it unless it is absolutely necessary.

• Protect personal financial information at home and on your computer (shred sensitive financial information, account numbers, statements).

• Check your credit report annually (this is often provided for free).

• Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.

• Protect personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software and change internet passwords frequently.

• Don't give personal information over the phone, through the mail or internet unless you initiated the contact or you are sure who is asking for the information.

IRS Contact

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or phone to request personal or financial information, or to notify you of an audit of your tax return. They also will not contact you through text message or social media. Report suspicious online or email phishing scams to [email protected] or (800) 366-4484.

Requesting a copy of a fraudulent tax return

If you have been the victim of a fraudulent tax return using your Social Security number (SSN), you are entitled to a copy of the fraudulent tax return filed and accepted by the IRS to determine how your personal information was used. You may request a redacted copy (one with some of the information blacked-out) if your SSN was listed as the taxpayer or spouse on the fraudulent tax return. To obtain a copy of the fraudulent return mail a letter with the below required information to: IRS – P.O. Box 9039 –Andover, MA 01810-0939.

• Your name and SSN, your mailing address, the tax year of the fraudulent tax return you are requesting, a signed statement as follows: "I declare that I am the taxpayer".

• The letter must be accompanied by a copy of your government issued identification (driver's license or passport).

We hope you never have to use any of this information, but the staff of Moats & Hebebrand CPAs desire to provide helpful information to assist in the filing of timely and accurate tax returns to members of the Tehachapi community.

Moats and Hebebrand CPAs is located at 20231 Valley Blvd., Ste. E, Tehachapi, or call (661) 822-1750.