With the April tax deadline approaching, many people give their records and receipts to tax specialists to ensure compliance with income tax codes and tax returns. Yet, if these records and receipts are not going to trusted financial advisors, the information could be used to commit tax-related identity theft and file fraudulent claims.
In 2014, Florida had the nation’s highest rate of identity theft complaints—186 per 100,000 people. The Port St. Lucie metro area, including all of Martin and St. Lucie counties, ranked 11th in the nation for identity theft complaints with 148 complaints per 100,000 people. The Sebastian and Vero Beach metro area, which includes all of Indian River County, also appeared in the top 30, ranking 28th with 120 complaints per 100,000 people. The Miami/Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach metro area was number one in the nation with 316 complaints per 100,000 people.
Thieves and scammers are attracted to Florida for a variety of reasons: Florida’s lack of state income tax means less scrutiny from state officials. Florida’s transient population makes it easier for hit-and-run operators to blend in with others. Its large senior population provides a tempting target of savings and vulnerabilities, and its fast development means a lot of new money floating around.
Tax identity theft victims often do not realize they have been scammed until it’s too late. The first sign comes after victims try to file a real tax return, and the IRS sends a notice indicating more than one return has been filed. The victim will then have to resend a paper tax return with several forms of identification to the IRS, and the investigation can take several months to complete with many victims entering next tax season without receiving the initial refund.
Tax Identity Theft Signs
- More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
- You owe additional taxes.
- IRS records show you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
How to Avoid
- Mail tax returns early in the tax season.
- Do not give a business your Social Security number unless it is a trusted financial institution.
- Check the status of your refund at www.irs.gov/refunds.
- Check your credit report annually.
- Do not give personal information over the phone, through the mail or Internet unless you have either initiated the contact or are sure you know who is asking.
The IRS has implemented new programs to protect taxpayers before they become victims. These programs include slower refunds, flagging suspicious returns, and placing holds on some returns until the data is verified. The IRS has created a Personal Identification Number system for previous victims of identity theft. Taxpayers are issued a PIN and the number must be entered on tax returns or a refund will not be issued. For the first time, the IRS is allowing all residents of Florida to create a PIN account.
No one wants to be the victim of a crime or an auto accident. I am a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer with over 30 years of experience in helping the injured, proudly serving as a personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and Okeechobee. Call me for a free case analysis and evaluation.
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