Tax season seems to be one of our favorite topics of conversation lately. While many are eagerly anticipating their tax returns, there’s an underlying dark cloud looming over tax season that everyone needs to be aware of: identity fraud.
According to an article published this week, the US is faced with the serious threat of identity fraud during tax season, especially in states like Florida with a large elderly population. Criminals are using stolen names and social security numbers to file bogus electronic tax forms to claim refunds.
While identity fraud can be a terrible and costly experience for victims to endure, it’s also detrimental to the country as a whole and could cost the United States at least $21 billion over the next five years.
In 2012 alone, 1.2 million cases of tax identity theft were reported, which is up from only 48,000 in 2008. Fortunately, according to the article, the IRS has announced that they will devote 3,000 agents to the identity fraud problem this season -- double the amount of agents assigned to identity fraud in 2011.
Don’t let identity fraud happen to you this tax season! Be diligent about checking your credit report and scores from each of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) for any errors or red flags that could be cause for concern. For example, your credit report will give you a listing of aliases, addresses, and credit accounts in your name. If any information in your credit report is unfamiliar to you, then it’s possible you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
In addition to checking your credit information, be sure to take advantage of credit monitoring. Credit monitoring services will scan your credit files each day (from each of the bureaus) for certain changes, and can quickly alert you if your information has changed.
Especially around tax time, ongoing credit monitoring is a great way to safeguard you against potential identity theft and fraud.