Community Voices

Crime Watch: Important tips if someone has stolen your Social Security number

Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell
Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell

A recent column raised lots of questions regarding tax returns and identity theft. Here’s more information provided by the Eastern Shores Crime Watch group and the North Miami Beach Police Department:

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone steals your Social Security number to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund. You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return and discover that one has already been filed using your number, or the IRS may send you a letter saying they have identified a suspicious return using your number.

Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or tax professional:

▪ More than one tax return filed within one year, using your Social Security number.

▪ You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.

▪ IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.

If you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends these steps:

▪ File a complaint with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov.

▪ Contact your financial institutions, and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.

▪ Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records: Equifax at www.Equifax.com or call 1–800–766–0008; Experian at www.Experian.com or call 1–888–397–3742; TransUnion at www.TransUnion.com or call 1–800–680–7289.

If your number is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:

▪ Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided or, if instructed, go to IDVerify.irs.gov.

▪ Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your Social Security number or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.

▪ Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

▪ If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, call 1–800–908–4490. They have specialized teams that can assist with tax-related identity theft. For additional information, contact the department at 1–800–HELP–FLA (435-7352), 1–800–FL–AYUDA (352-9832) en Español, or visit 800helpfla.com.

Reader’s letter

Dear Carmen:

The Feb. 14, 2016, issue of the MiamiHerald included an article by you, “Thieves prey on mailboxes to steal tax documents.” In it you urge readers to get a PIN, if they have filed federal returns from Florida, Georgia, or Washington, D.C. How do I get such a PIN? My first filing will be for 2015, which I’ll send in by April 15, 2016. Thanks Roger

For information to obtain a PIN, visit www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-An-Identity-Protection-PIN.

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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