Most people don’t enjoy tax season. Any of the thousands of Americans who experience tax-related identity theft find this time of year particularly frustrating.
And then there’s Kenyatta Solomon, an Atlanta woman whose identity has reportedly been stolen to file fraudulent tax returns two years in a row.
“It’s very frustrating, especially when they say they have all these things in place and they’re supposed to be able to protect you,” Solomon said to local news outlet WSB-TV. She was one of about half a million people last year who received an IRS Identity Protection PIN, a six-digit number assigned to identity theft victims to use when filing their federal tax returns. After last year’s identity theft incident, Solomon’s Social Security number was flagged, which requires her to use the PIN on subsequent tax returns.
But when she went to file this year, someone had already used her information. Last year, the incident caused her to receive her $5,000 refund late in the year, and as a result of the second incident, she can’t file her taxes electronically.
More Resources Focus on Problem
Solomon may be unhappy with the Internal Revenue Service, but the agency is dedicating a lot of resources to combat the growing tax ID-theft problem. There are more than 3,000 IRS employees whose work focuses on identity theft-related issues, and earlier this year, the IRS said it is increasing “the number and efficiency of the identity theft filters that are used to identify potentially fraudulent returns due to identity theft prior to the processing of the return and release of any refund.”
Last fiscal year, the IRS started nearly 1,500 identity theft criminal investigations, a 66% increase from the previous fiscal year.
One of the most effective ways to avoid becoming a victim of tax-related identity theft is to file your taxes as soon as possible — thieves’ success revolves around beating you to the refund. If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft, contact the IRS, fill out an IRS identity theft affidavit, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission and set up fraud alerts with the major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Identity theft is a year-round issue, and you should always keep an eye on your credit reports and bank accounts for suspicious activity. You can also use your credit score as part of an identity theft alert system: If you check your credit score frequently — you can do that for free every month with a Credit.com account — and you notice a sudden drop in your credit score, it may be a sign someone is misusing your personal information.
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