Articles

Manage Identity Theft with Expert Assistance by Dustin Grizzle


Posted on February 29, 2016 by Dustin Grizzle

Not a day goes by without news of another data breach that comprised consumers’ personal information. Most recently, the IRS detected thieves attempting to access its system in an effort to generate PINs and file bogus tax returns for more than 100,000 taxpayers.

Despite the safeguards individuals and businesses employ to protect the personal information about themselves and their customers, identity theft fraud continues to be a real and serious threat. This is especially true in Florida, which continues its reign as the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints, which does not include the countless number of cases that go unreported.

All-too-often, identity theft goes unnoticed for months or even years after criminals first steal an individual’s data. For many unsuspecting victims, the first hint of theft occurs when they attempt to file their annual tax returns and instead get a rejection notice from the IRS. It is at this point that taxpayers discover that someone else has filed a return under their Social Security Number, typically in an attempt to intercept a tax refund.  Other common schemes involve criminals stealing victims’ Social Security numbers to fraudulently apply for jobs, receive government benefits or secure credit.

When individuals detect they may have been a victim of tax-return identity theft, they should not attempt to remedy the matter on their own. Rather, they should contact their accountants, who understand the IRS’s processes and have the experience and ability to manage these issues more easily and more swiftly than the average person. That’s not to say that complete resolution of the matter will be achieved within days. Identity theft victims should be prepared for a lengthy process that will require the additional filings of specific IRS forms to prove one’s identity, agency investigations and new procedures and safeguards for protecting victims’ from fraud in the future.

As an added layer of protection against identity theft, the IRS recently introduced the Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) program, which assigns eligible taxpayers with a six-digit number they must use to confirm their identities and validate their social security numbers when filing federal tax returns. Taxpayers who receive IP PINs should include the digits on tax returns filed either on paper or electronically. Those who use the IRS’s e-file program should note that their IP-PINs are separate from their five-digit e-file PINs.

Currently, IP PINS are available only to taxpayers who have been victims of identity theft or who reside in Florida Georgia or the District of Columbia, where the IRS is conducting pilot programs.

If you suspect you were a victim of tax-related identity theft, remember to follow these steps:

  1. Call your tax accountant.
  2. Complete and file Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit along with two forms of government-issued ID to alert the IRS that you are or may be a potential future victim of identity theft tax fraud.
  3. File paper tax returns for the current year.
  4. Be patient as the IRS conducts an investigation.
  5. Carefully review bills and financial accounts to detect unauthorized charges or withdrawals.
  6. Get a copy of your credit report to identify suspicious activity, which may include inquiries into your credit history, inaccurate personal data or unauthorized credit cards.

About the Author: Dustin Grizzle is a senior manager in Berkowitz Pollack Brant’s Tax Services practice, where he provides tax planning and compliance services to businesses and high-net-worth individuals. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Boca Raton, Fla., office at (561) 361-2000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.