My husband and I found out about this at an especially bad time: Sunday, April 13, around 10:30 pm. That’s when we finally hit the Turbo Tax “send” button to file our taxes electronically. A rejection notice immediately popped up: turns out we had already filed (under my Social Security number)!
What? Why would someone else file our taxes? To collect a refund, based on all sorts of fake documentation. As long as someone has a Social Security number and name, it’s possible to file for (and collect) a tax refund electronically. The IRS, after all, doesn’t question where you work or how much money you make, even if it’s way different from previous years. America is the land of upward – and downward – mobility.
When I finally got through to an IRS staffer – after an hour on hold Monday morning – I was so exasperated, I cried. Not to worry, she said; she had been fielding my type of call all day long for several months.
IRS to the Rescue
First, the IRS asked a bunch of questions to figure out if I was the person who had filed my past returns, and to compare those to the filing for 2013. We always file jointly, but the fake return was individual; not surprisingly, the fake return claimed a refund, even though we owed money for 2013.
I spent the rest of day doing what the IRS said was necessary:
- Report incident to local police (once the local police report is accepted, file with the FTC)
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Contact Social Security Administration and report the breach
- Complete IRS Form 14039 and attach it along with a copy of my driver’s license to my tax return
- Mail a paper copy of my tax return to the IRS, along with Form 14039
- Contact all three credit bureaus to request my credit report and place a hold on my credit
- Notify my financial institutions, including credit card issuers, so they can issue fraud alerts and temporarily suspend accounts.
I got everything done April 14. The IRS gave me the websites and the phone numbers for all the above, except the local police, which I googled, and was able to file my police report online.
The person at my bank also said she’d been getting my type of call for months. And she reassured me that based on their experience, our situation was most likely going to be limited to IRS fraud.
I suspect my Social Security number and name were snatched when a hacker broke into the IT system of a local non-profit I volunteer at. And the information they had on me was pretty limited.
While I’m still a bit shell-shocked, I was glad to see the support in place in case of fraud. And it was electronic filing, after all, that allowed us to catch the fraud (had I filed a paper copy, we still wouldn’t know).
So I will continue to use my banks’ website to pay bills and to make online purchases at major retailers. But going forward, note to self: be more careful if asked to provide personal info to places not likely to have strong online security systems.