Tax Refund Fraud on the Rise
February 3, 2016
The Federal Trade Commission reports a 47 percent spike in identity thefts in 2015, with the biggest contributor being tax refund fraud.
Tax refund fraud occurs when a Social Security number is stolen and used to file a tax return and the resulting refund is claimed by the thief. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that this fraud has occurred until they attempt to file their own taxes and discover that a return has already been filed using their Social Security number.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about this type of fraud and ways to protect financial information.
“Tax refund fraud is one more way scam artists line their own pockets with our money,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But with the gigantic spike in tax-related identity theft in 2015, it is more important for Arkansans to be cautious with personal financial information. Arkansans must also remember that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following steps to take if you fall victim to tax refund fraud:
- File a fraud alert with one of the three national credit bureaus. The selected credit bureau is required to contact the other two bureaus, which will result in a fraud alert with all three bureaus. Once a fraud alert has been placed, if an application for credit is filed in your name and the prospective creditor checks your credit report, the prospective creditor will be alerted to the possibility of identity theft.
- File an identity theft report with a local law enforcement agency.
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Contact the company involved to dispute fraudulent transactions or accounts. Ask the company whether a fraud affidavit is required.
- File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or call (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).
- Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze is designed to restrict access to your credit report and help prevent additional instances of identity theft.
- Consider requesting an Identity Theft Passport provided by the Attorney General’s office.
- Respond immediately to any IRS notification.
- Continue to pay taxes and file tax returns, even if it must be done by paper.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Rutledge encourages Arkansans to remember that not all data breaches result in tax-related identity theft. But if your Social Security number has been compromised and the IRS has alerted you to duplicate returns filed under your Social Security, you should immediately complete and submit the IRS’s Identity Theft Affidavit.
For more information on identity theft, to apply for an ID Theft Passport or other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982.