A new type of fraud has been common this year, where a thief files an income tax return for an unsuspecting individual and then receives the tax refund. It is a clever plan, but not very sophisticated. Thankfully, you can decrease the chances of being a victim of this fraud with just one easy step.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has an online account feature that allows taxpayers to retrieve information about their tax account, including transcripts of past tax returns. Unfortunately, the verification system for setting up an online account is pretty rudimentary. Media reports that the required personally identifying information can be easily found through online sources, often in a few quick minutes. Not good, huh?
If you set up your own IRS online account, you make it harder for someone else to create an account and access your information. The process should be fairly simple - go to the IRS account setup page, enter some information, get an email code, and answer security questions. You would want to do this for each taxpayer in your family.
Now, the downside. The website appears to be down right now. When I tried to do the steps above, I received the following message: "A technical problem has occurred. Please try your request again later."
I encourage you not to be complacent. Keep trying the website until you are able to get through, and set up an account for each taxpayer in your family. While you are at it, set up a similar account with the Social Security Administration, to prevent fraudulent use of that information.
I find this whole situation to be shocking, but I guess that I should not be surprised. With the proliferation of online information resources, identify theft of all types becomes easier and easier. This is just one more example of how clever and dangerous this type of crime can be. I am very curious to discover how many fraudulent tax returns will be filed over the course of this tax filing season. Do what you can to prevent your own taxes from being compromised, and save our country a bundle in stolen funds.