Crime Watch

Tips on navigating the waters after someone else files your tax return

 

Special to The Miami Herald

Several weeks ago I found out that my “tax return” was filed by someone else using my Social Security number.

Needless to say I was furious and at the same time bewildered because I rarely use my Social Security number. But then I started to focus on how this could have happened. Well, not placing blame on anyone, but I was in the hospital in October for 10 days or so. I had many tubes of blood taken while I was there, and after that I went to several new doctors’ offices for follow-up.

Now we all know how easy it is for our Social Security number to be sold since we are the “fraud” capital and everyday tons of people are being arrested for this type of crime.

Several months ago I wrote about our Medicare number being our Social Security number and why on earth Medicare hasn’t changed that procedure is beyond comprehension, but so be it for their lack of common sense. With that said I now started the journey of proving who I am and that my tax return was compromised or stolen. I must say that when I called the IRS they were extremely helpful and understanding, because I had a million questions.

So today I want to share with you once again what the IRS instructed me on what I had to do. Of course who knows when I will get my refund, but I hope that in the process they find the “dirty bag” that has caused me this headache.

Here are the steps to take if someone filed a tax return in your name:

If you receive a notice from the IRS call the number on the notice immediately or contact IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 so they can take steps to secure your tax account and match your Social Security number.

Fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039 (your can download it at www.irs.gov).

Report the incident at www.consumer.ftc.gov (Federal Trade Commission) or call the hotline at 877-438-4338.

Contact the 3 major credit bureaus fraud division:

Equifax – www.equifax.com – 800-525-6285;

Experian – www.experian.com – 888-397-3742;

TransUnion – www.transunion.com – 800-680-7289.

Once you check your credit with the above agencies, if anything has been compromised — then immediately close those accounts.

Be advised that a taxpayer’s refund can typically take about 180 days to resolve and the IRS is truly trying to reduce that time period. Now for victims who have previously been in contact with IRS for their return and haven’t heard anything from them, you can contact the Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 800-908-4490.

I hope the above information helps you get through this most frustrating situation, and I truly hope they catch the person that did mine, but we need to do our part by being vigilante with our personal papers, not giving out our Social Security number just to anyone and NOT carrying our Social Security card with us unless we are going to a doctor.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day; let’s keep in our prayers those that fought so gallantly for our freedom.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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