Tips from FBI on how to protect your PII

While all U.S. taxpayers are susceptible to Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF), over the past year, criminal actors have targeted specific portions of the population, including: temporary visa holders, the homeless, prisoners, the deceased, low-income individuals, children, senior citizens, and military personnel deployed overseas. This may be due to the perception by criminal actors that these individuals are less likely to be aware of or receive notification that their identity has been stolen.

The only legitimate information needed to file a fraudulent tax return is a name and social security number. This information is obtained by criminal actors through a variety of techniques, including computer intrusions, the online purchase of stolen Personally Identifiable Information (PII), the physical theft of data from individuals or third parties, the impersonation of government officials through both phishing and cold-calling techniques, the exploitation of PII obtained through one's place of employment, the theft of electronic medical records, and searching multiple publicly available Web sites and social media.

If you believe you are a victim of SIRF, contact your local FBI or IRS field office. You may consult www.identitytheft.gov which can help you report and recover from identity theft. Additional resources are available at https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Identity-Protection.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • File tax returns as early as possible.
  • Monitor your bank account statements regularly, as well and as your credit report at least once a year for any fraudulent activity.
  • Report unauthorized transactions to your bank or credit card provider as soon as possible.
  • Be cautious of telephone calls or e-mails that require you to provide your personal information, especially your birth date or social security number. If you are in doubt, do not provide the requested information.
  • Do not open e-mail or attachments from unknown individuals. Additionally, do not click on links embedded in e-mails from unknown individuals.
  • Never provide personal information of any sort via e-mail. Be aware, many e-mails requesting your personal information appear to be legitimate.
  • If you use online tax services, ensure your bank account is accurately listed before and after you file your tax return.
  • Ensure sensitive information is permanently removed from online tax software accounts that are no longer being used. Allowing online accounts to become dormant can be risky and make you more susceptible to tax fraud schemes.
  • If you feel you are a victim, immediately contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records.
  • If you are a victim, file an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039). This form is available for download from www.identitytheft.gov.
Info source: www.ic3.gov
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