Tax season is in full swing, but if you’re not careful, your refund could be going into the pockets of thieves.
Criminals are using stolen names and security numbers to file phony tax forms.
“I had information stolen through the mail,” said Brandon Barnhart.
It only took a minute for thieves to steal a credit card statement out of Barnhart’s mailbox. Soon after, his card had hundreds of dollars in fraudulent charges.
“It was shocking,” Barnhart said. “Basically, I didn’t know how it could have gotten stolen. You know, I always get my mail every day, but somehow, between 8 and 5, somebody came along and got that piece. I felt victimized.”
Criminals target both mailboxes and computers to steal sensitive information.
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft. If you shop online, if you do banking online, if you do any kind of transaction online, you can be the victim of identity theft.
Jonny Woods works at Altec Computers and sees victims of ID theft.
“It’s an everyday situation,” Woods said.
The scheme seems simple but can be very profitable.
“They are very sophisticated,” Woods said. “It is not necessarily that they are going to steal $100,000 from you, even though that can happen. More than likely, what's going to happen is they are going to take a couple bucks out of your account every couple of weeks and they are going to do this over the course of forever.”
Armed with your name and Social Security number, thieves will target your tax return. Investigators with the IRS say armed gangs and violent criminals now turn to tax fraud to make a quick buck and file electronic returns. Police say criminals will get that information any way they can.
Victims of tax identity theft may have to wait six months or more for tax returns to be processed.
If you think you are a victim, contact police and the IRS.
To keep your personal information safe and away from identity thieves:
- Don't carry documents with your Social Security number or tax I-D number
- Don't give that information over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you initiated the conversation
- Keep anti-virus software updated
- Don't work on your taxes over a public Wi-Fi connection