Identity Theft and Fraud

On your mark, get set, file!

Posted:  Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 8:45am

Remember last fall’s big news about the data breach at Equifax? Information about 143 million U.S. residents, including their social security numbers, was revealed.  

On Jan. 29, the IRS started accepting income tax returns for the 2017 tax year and many of us could soon feel the second blow as a result of that breach.

Stolen identity refund fraud – known as SIRF – has been on the rise for the past several years and information that was revealed in a data breach can unfortunately make many of us victims of this lucrative crime.

Even though you have enrolled in credit monitoring, those services cannot monitor for income tax fraud. And placing a security freeze on your credit report will not prevent IRS fraud.

If you are expecting a refund, be aware that the IRS is devoting more time to verifying returns, so your refund could be delayed.

This year more than ever it is important to file your taxes as soon as possible. Thieves expect us to delay so they file early, hoping to obtain a refund in someone else’s name.

And it doesn’t matter if you don’t expect a refund. Criminals file online and use bogus amounts to make it appear that a refund is due.

In addition to filing early, here are some steps you can take to try to prevent becoming a victim of income tax fraud.

  • Beginning this year, some taxpayers will see a “verification code” on their W-2 forms. This code is being used by the IRS to help reduce the amount of fraud. Taxpayers who file online will be prompted to enter the same verification code when they file their income tax return.
  • If you receive income statements and reporting forms from unknown sources, contact the IRS.
  • If you are filing your return online, make sure that your computer is secure and that you have installed all software and system updates before entering your information. DO NOT use a public Wi-Fi network to file your tax return.
  • Stolen information is also used by those who are unauthorized to work in the U.S. You can check on the income being reported for your social security number by contacting the Social Security Administration and requesting a copy of your earnings record. This will show you the recent work history associated with your social security number. It is also a good idea for parents to request this for their children to make sure that no one is using their child’s information.

Jane Carpenter is the founder of Maine Identity Services, LLC which provides data breach and identity theft assistance to individuals, organizations and law enforcement personnel through its books, seminars and police materials. For more information about the company and its products, visit