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Data breaches in recent years – both large and small - have served millions of personal data points to criminals, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers and email addresses. This type of personal information is valuable during tax season, when attempts are made to use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns to obtain refunds.
Tax refund identity theft happens when someone uses your personal identifying information, such as your name, date of birth or Social Security number without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes, according to the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) “Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.” It does not matter if your legitimate tax return indicates that you owe taxes or that the government owes you a refund.
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), approximately 597,000 taxpayers were victims of tax refund identity theft in 2017, a 32 percent drop from 2016.
“While the declines are promising, taxpayers should remain aware that tax refund identity theft is still possible, even as the IRS plans to roll out additional safeguards for tax filing season,” said Trevor Buxton, certified fraud examiner and fraud awareness manager at PNC Bank.
The most important point every taxpayer needs to remember is that the IRS will first contact you in writing through the United States Postal Service (USPS) – not by telephone, email, or other electronic means.
Common warning signs that you may be a victim of tax refund identity theft, include:
You can take the following measures to protect personal data and reduce the risk of tax refund identity theft:
PNC offers additional tips on how to protect yourself from identity theft.
If you suspect you are a tax refund identity theft victim, you should take the following actions:
Learn more about how to defend yourself against common tax fraud scams »
MOST COMMON TYPES OF IDENTITY THEFT COMPLAINTS
Employment or Tax-related Fraud (34%)
Credit Card Fraud (33%)
Phone or Utilities Fraud (13%)
You may be at increased risk in a year where your income, age or filing status does not require you to file a tax return. Identity thieves may file a phony tax return in your place and collect a fraudulent refund.
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1. Key IRS Identity Theft Indicators Continue Dramatic Decline in 2017; Security Summit Marks 2017 Progress Against Identity Theft , Internal Revenue Service, February 2018
These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.
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Read a summary of privacy rights for California residents which outlines the types of information we collect, and how and why we use that information.
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