Tag Archives: phone scam

New Worry on ID Theft: Tax Fraud

Statistics on identity theft show that tax-related fraud causes billions of dollars of financial harm, but tax fraud assistance may or may not be included in identity theft protection products. For comprehensive coverage, an identity theft protection service must include tax fraud assistance.

What is tax fraud?

Instances of tax fraud could involve…

  • Phone scams where thieves pretend to be the IRS calling for money or information
  • Phishing scams where fraudsters send fake IRS emails or set up unsolicited websites to get money or information
  • Criminals using false information or a taxpayer’s stolen information to file fraudulent tax returns, thereby getting the victim’s refund
  • Dishonest tax preparers who defraud their clients with false deductions, inflated expenses or the like

How common is tax fraud?

Every tax season – and all the months in between – the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) deals with dishonest tax-related schemes. The TIGTA has received well over 90,000 complaints about IRS phone scams and found that victims have lost approximately $5 million.

In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 1,455,146 identity theft complaints – a third of which stemmed from tax-related fraud. In 2014, the FTC’s 1.5 million fraud-related complaints revealed that consumers have paid a total of $1.7 billion because of fraud, and a third of those complaints were also tax-related.

Fake tax returns cause problems, as well: $4 billion of tax refunds went to fraudsters after they sent in fake tax returns to the IRS.

How do identity theft protection plans address tax fraud?

Unfortunately, not many products provide services specifically geared toward preventing tax fraud. Common features, like credit monitoring, are less likely to catch these kinds of crimes because tax information is not connected to the main credit activity being monitored.

Another reason for lack of tax fraud assistance could be strict limitations on a third party’s ability to communicate with the IRS. The IRS requires that anyone communicating with it on a victim’s behalf must have IRS-approved credentials (e.g. enrolled agent, certified tax preparer or certified public accountant).

The upkeep of a tax fraud assistance division can get expensive, as well. A significant amount of time and money are needed for finding approved specialists, giving them the time to work through each case and maintaining the correct credentials. Some certifications involve continuing education, periodic renewal fees that can really add up and purchasing and maintaining a tax preparer bond in the thousands of dollars.

Despite limited capabilities to detect that a member is a victim of tax fraud or act on a victim’s behalf with the IRS, a specialist could still assist victims by guiding them on what to do next and giving them the necessary resources to carry out the steps themselves.

How can you avoid tax fraud?

First, whether it’s on your own or through an identity theft protection plan, tap into resources about how to avoid victimization. For example, learn how to pick a reliable tax preparer and how to handle tax documents with confidential information.

Second, make sure your protection plan includes Social Security number (SSN) monitoring because your SSN is a key piece of information that the IRS uses to confirm your tax return actually came from you. In some instances, if a taxpayer’s SSN is at risk, the IRS will issue a special PIN number that differentiates the taxpayer’s real tax return from the thief’s fake ones.

Third is tax fraud assistance, which provides access to professionals who will help victims report the crime and address the resulting issues. Victims of tax scams deal with the same burden of significant financial losses and rebuilding reputations that accompany any other kind of fraud. Support from people who are familiar with both the tax system and identity theft recovery will give victims direction and help them take action.

Taxes are already frustrating for many, so adding the problem of identity theft only aggravates the situation. The statistics prove that tax fraud is relevant and must be taken into account when building security against identity theft and fraudulent activity.

The Cost of Fraud in the Workplace

Identity theft in the workplace and the expensive consequences are affecting more and more companies each year. One in three businesses were affected by data breaches last year, and the number of identity theft victims continues to grow. As the threat increases, it’s important to understand how identity theft happens, how it affects a company and its employees and what an employer can do to help.

How does identity theft happen?

Or better yet, how do thieves get information? Common ways include the following:

  • A dishonest employer/employee stealing information from coworkers (97% of cases, reported by companies that were fraud victims and uncovered the responsible party, were inside jobs.)
  • Hacking company databases or installing malware
  • Phishing – sending fake emails or setting up unsolicited websites/pop-up windows to get information from unsuspecting victims
  • Phone scams (40% of fraud complaints noted that the fraudsters contacted them via phone.)
  • Going through the mail or trash

There are plenty of ways that a thief uses newfound treasures. A few examples are…

  • Filing fraudulent tax returns to get the victims’ refunds
  • Bypassing security questions to access bank accounts, etc.
  • Getting healthcare through a victim’s insurance
  • Opening lines of credit, obtaining loans, leases, etc.
  • Selling the information to other thieves

How does identity theft affect the employee?

Employees who become victims of identity theft must deal with all kinds of consequences. They’ve lost their sense of safety and privacy and probably have significant financial losses. It all adds up to major stress and lots of work, which means employees are going to be heavily distracted at their jobs.

Identity theft also brings major financial setbacks. Millions of victims are suffering from the billions of dollars lost to identity theft over the last couple years, and it doesn’t help that one in four workers already deal with major financial distress on a daily basis, whether they’re a victim or not.

How does identity theft affect the employer?

Identity theft hits every kind of business, robbing companies of their private information, revealing their private information and decreasing their levels of productivity.

Fraud repercussions decrease employee productivity and eat away at company revenue. Unfortunately, every industry is vulnerable.

How can the employer help?

A good way for employers to keep their companies safe from the consequences of identity theft is to incorporate an identity theft prevention and recovery service into the employees’ benefits program. Features could include continual monitoring, assistance for addressing suspicious activity and resources that help with resolution.

Identity theft protection plans with 24/7 monitoring of credit activity and personal information will help reveal fraudulent activity before it causes significant damage. Likewise, a product that provides assistance and resources for the recovery process can help alleviate some of the stress that victimized employees feel, because they have professional guidance and support for tackling all of the necessary tasks.

All employers have a reason to consider what kind of protection and coverage is currently available for their employees. More and more companies are affected each year, and the health and financial costs should be enough to push employers toward getting a solution.