As Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week comes to a close, the Lee County Sheriff's Office encourages you to take the time to educate yourself on Stolen Identification Refund Fraud, also known as SIRF.
Criminals who commit SIRF use stolen personal information – like your Social Security number – to file phony tax returns that contain fake income and withholding information resulting in fraudulent tax refunds being processed by the IRS. So what can you do to lessen the chance you’ll be a victim?
• File your tax return early in the tax season, before identity thieves do.
• If you file electronically, use a secure internet connection, not unsecured, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots at places like coffee shops.
• Mail your tax return directly from the post office, not your mailbox.
• Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
• Know the IRS will not contact you be e-mail, text or social media. If the IRS needs information from you, you will be contacted by mail only.
• Don’t give out your Social Security Number (SSN) or Medicare number unless necessary. Ask why it’s needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored.
• Get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
What should you do if you are a victim of SIRF? Typically, tax identity theft victims find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in their name. If you get a letter like this, don’t panic. Instead do the following:
• Contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
• Contact your local law enforcement agency to file a police report.
• Immediately check your credit report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.
• Call the Lee County Sheriff's Office Fraud Line at 258-3292 for additional assistance.