WASHINGTON – This could come as a real shock: You send in your tax return and then you get word from the IRS that the agency already has it. Your refund has been sent out to some other address.
Almost 100 taxpayers in Fairfax County, Va., have already received that message so far this year.
It’s happening across the country and it’s not a mistake. It’s tax fraud.
Lt. Jimmy Bacon, who heads Fairfax County’s Financial Crimes Unit, says sometimes the scammers are aiming right at your tax refund, but there are other reasons for this.
“There might be somebody here in this country illegally, working under someone else’s stolen Social Security number, and they go ahead and file a tax refund on it,” he says.
He says e-filing has made the crime easier since the filing can be done in minutes at the computer and returns are often quick.
“They can get that money back before the real person files their taxes and there’s any kind of fraud discovered,” says Bacon.
There are things you can do to protect yourself.
Limit the occasions you share your Social Security number with others.
Do not voluntarily give your Social Security to others.
Closely monitor your credit reports to catch potential fraud early.
As odd as it sounds, closely monitor your children’s credit reports as well. Thieves are known to steal children’s Social Security numbers.
Virginia residents can have a customer identifier on their driver’s license instead of their Social Security number.
Shred all personal information at home prior to trash disposal.
Opt out of pre-approved credit applications by calling 1-888-567-8688.
Bacon says it’s important if you are a victim of this crime to file a police report so there’s a record of who you are. You will then have to go through the complicated task of clearing up the identify theft starting with the IRS.