U.S. Attorney warns: Watch for ID theft during tax season

U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan joined federal law enforcement partners warning about a growing problem of identity theft related to tax refund fraud.  Scammers across the country are using other people’s personal information to try to claim income tax refunds.  People may not know they are a victim until they try to file their tax return and it is rejected because someone using their Social Security Number has already filed and claimed a refund.
 
“Protecting your personal information has never been more critical,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “Always mail your tax documents from a secure mailbox, or file electronically on a secure network.  Using a trusted tax professional and filing early can also protect you from being a victim.”

In 2013, nearly 700 Washington residents reported being a victim of tax related identity theft, and there are likely many more people who simply did not report being victimized.  Nationwide tax ID theft fraud is estimated to cost the U.S. Treasury more than $5 billion annually. 
 
“Stealing identities and trying to file false tax returns not only threatens the integrity of our tax system, it victimizes innocent people.  It can cost victims time and stress when they have done nothing wrong,” said Kenneth J. Hines, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in the Pacific Northwest. “The men and women of IRS, along with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office, will continue to pursue fraudsters who try and help themselves to our nation’s tax dollars and who cause so much heartache for the victims of this crime.”
This week as part of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service are teaming up to educate the public about ID theft tax refund fraud.  The FTC is providing a webinar tomorrow to educate tax preparers about the problem and how to assist their clients if they discover they have been the victim of tax refund ID theft.  For those who have had their identities stolen and used for fraud, the IRS will issue a special PIN to use for filing taxes.  More information on the PIN program is available at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Combats-Identity-Theft-and-Refund-Fraud-on-Many-Fronts-2014
 
Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Washington Coalition of Crime Victim Advocates (WCCVA) have resources for victims of identity theft.  Find them at www.ftc.gov and www.wccva.org
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