Expecting a tax refund this year? Someone else might have gotten to it first.
Identity thieves are stealing Social Security numbers to fraudulently file and claim refunds for themselves.
And the scheme is growing quickly. The Internal Revenue Service investigated 898 cases of identity theft in fiscal year 2012, more than tripling the caseload from the previous year. So far in fiscal year 2013, more than 560 criminal identity theft investigations have been opened, according to the IRS.
Victims often aren't aware that they've been targeted until they file a tax return later in the filing season and discover that more than one return was filed with the same Social Security number.
If you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, you should take action immediately.
How can you protect yourself from becoming a victim? The IRS offers these tips:
- Don't carry your Social Security card or any documents with your Social Security number on it.
- Don't give a business your Social Security number just because they ask. Give it only when required.
- Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Secure personal information in your home.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti- virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don't give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
More information is available from the Iowa Department of Revenue.
By Emily Kittle