Contact: Gigi Thompson Jarvis
firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.822.6232, x119
For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, DC (January 19, 2012) When an online retailer as big as Zappos is hacked, concern about identity theft rises among consumers. With all the websites across the globe that receive and store personal and financial information, there are plenty of opportunities for hackers. Most people don’t realize that tax time presents its own opportunities for identity thieves.
While a lot of the identity theft in the news involves defrauding lending institutions by using Social Security numbers and other identifying information to open up credit cards or take out loans, clever thieves have also figured out how to nab your tax refund. By using your personal information to file a return early in the tax season, the thief might just beat you to your own refund. IRS may be the one to tip you off – it is alerted to possible fraud when more than one tax return is filed using the same Social Security number, or a report of wages is filed from an employer that the taxpayer claims never to have worked for.
“Tax refund theft is a lot more widespread than people know,” said Rich Rhodes, EA, an enrolled agent in Hinckley, Ohio. “A lot of people don’t have a clue someone has filed a return using their name and information until their electronically filed return is rejected with an error code stating that they have already filed, or they get a letter from the IRS.”
The frequency of this kind of fraud has resulted in the creation of the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit to focus on the threat. IRS’ comprehensive identity theft strategy is aimed at preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as quickly as possible. Identity theft filters now in place make it easier to spot false returns before they are processed and before a refund is issued. If IRS is informed as soon as a taxpayer suspects his or her personal information may have been stolen, the taxpayer’s account will be tagged and tracked in order to head off trouble.
Taxpayers who have reason to believe their personal information has been stolen should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit immediately (1.800.908.4490). If you receive a notice from IRS that someone may be trying to file a fraudulent return in your name, follow the instructions on the notice as soon as possible. And, if you use a paid return preparer this year, make certain that he or she has a preparer tax identification number. As of 2011, all paid tax return preparers must be registered with IRS. Enrolled agents, certified public accountants and tax attorneys have always been registered, but this new requirement of all tax preparers should help to reign in unscrupulous preparers and safeguard taxpayers.
About Enrolled Agents
Enrolled agents are tax professionals licensed by the US Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the IRS. While attorneys and certified public accountants are also licensed, only enrolled agents specialize exclusively in taxes. Enrolled agents are required to complete many hours of continuing education each year to ensure they are up-to-date on the constantly changing tax code and must abide by a code of ethics. To find an enrolled agent in your area, visit the website of the National Association of Enrolled Agents at www.naea.org and look for the “Find an Enrolled Agent” directory.