Consumer Alert: Tips for Californians to prevent tax-related identity theft
Incidences increase in January
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris kicked off Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week Monday by issuing tips for Californians to follow to prevent tax-related identity theft as the annual tax compiling and filing process begins.
Tax-related identity theft increases in January and commonly occurs when:
• Thieves use stolen personal information to file tax returns in someone else’s name in order to obtain a refund.
• Thieves use a stolen Social Security number (SSN) for employment, which may complicate state and federal income tax obligations for the victim.
• Thieves send “phishing” emails that look like they are from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) that ask for personal information or include links to official-looking web sites.
California consumers are urged to use the following tips to better prevent tax-related identity theft:
• Never open an email or a text message that says it is from the IRS or the FTB - they are always fraudulent. State and federal tax agencies never initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media to request personal or financial information or to send notice regarding audits or refunds.
• It’s fine to show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a job or to your financial institution for tax reporting purposes. Do not routinely carry your card or other documents that display your SSN.
• While preparing your tax return for electronic filing, make sure to use a strong password. A strong password is at least eight characters and includes a combination of at least three upper and/or lowercase letters, punctuation, symbols and numerals.
• Once you have e-filed your return, save it to a flash drive, CD or similar device and then delete the tax information from your hard drive. Store the CD or flash drive in a safe place, such as a lock box or safe. If working with an accountant, ask about what measures they take to protect your information.
• Use a locked mailbox and don’t leave your mail in it for long periods of time. Take your mail that contains sensitive information (bills, tax returns) to the post office.
• If your SSN is stolen, reference the California Attorney General’s Identity Theft First Aid page for instructions on what to do: www.oag.ca.gov/idtheft/first-aid.
You may have a tax identity theft problem if you receive a letter from the IRS or FTB stating that:
• you filed more than one tax return,
• someone has already filed using your information,
• you have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year in which you did not file a return, or
• you received wages from an employer for whom you have not worked.
If you receive such a letter (not an email) from the IRS or FTB, immediately contact the agency’s identity theft unit:
Internal Revenue Service: email@example.com
IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit
California Franchise Tax Board: www.ftb.ca.gov/individuals/id_theft.shtml#ID
ID Theft Resolution Coordinator
Internal Revenue Service
Identity Theft web pages: www.irs.gov/uac/Suspicious-e-Mails-and-Identity-Theft and
Franchise Tax Board
Identity theft web page: www.ftb.ca.gov/individuals/id_theft.shtml#ID
California Attorney General
Identity Theft Protection and First Aid: http://oag.ca.gov/idtheft
Federal Trade Commission
Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0029-tax-identity-theft-awareness-week
For more information on how to identify and protect yourself from identity theft visit Attorney General Harris’ website.