Taxpayer advocate warns of identity scams – Beckley Register

If you’ve ever gotten a call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent requesting that you meet them to make a payment or they ask to verify your information, you’re probably not alone.

These scams are happening with greater frequency, officials say.

Larry Hostottle of the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS spoke about the issue at the Raleigh County Commission on Aging on Wednesday.

His message wasn’t just to warn seniors, but to tell all of us that personal information needs to be protected.

“That’s what they do. They steal your name and they get a job and use it for employment purposes. You’ll usually find that out because when that employer issues the 1099 or W-2 in January and February, you go to your mailbox and you open it up and you say ‘I’m retired, I’ve never worked at this place.’

“So not only are you having to fight the IRS to prove that you didn’t make the income… you just went over the limit for Social Security so now your Social Security for next year will be reduced if not totally eliminated. So now you have to fight Social Security too to get it reinstated.”

The IRS says that it has seen a significant increase in refund fraud that involves identity thieves who file false claims for refunds by stealing and then using someone’s Social Security number. The investigative work done by the Criminal Investigation unit is a major component of the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts to combat tax-related identity theft.

According to the IRS website, in fiscal year 2012, the IRS initiated approximately 900 identity theft-related criminal investigations, tripling the number of investigations initiated in FY 2011.

Direct investigative time applied to identity theft related investigations increased by 129 percent over that same period. Prosecution recommendations, indictments, and those convicted and sentenced for identity theft violations have increased dramatically since 2010. Sentences handed down for convictions relating to identity theft have been significant, ranging from four months to 25 years in prison.

“The second type of ID theft is when somebody gets your name, your address and your Social Security Number, and they file a tax return. They just make up income and they make up withholding. They file that tax return and get a refund direct-deposited,” Hostottle said. “Nine times out of 10 they’re not filing a paper return, they are filing an electronic return. There is no signature on it, it’s an electronically filed return with your name, address and Social Security Number. Last year alone, 2012, there were 66,000 ID theft returns filed nationwide. Since 2009 there have been over 700,000 ID theft returns filed.”

If your identity has been stolen, you can use an ID Theft affidavit to report the theft to most of the parties involved. All three credit bureaus and many major creditors have agreed to accept the affidavit. You can download the ID theft affidavit or request a copy by calling toll-free 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338). You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

If you believe someone has used your SSN fraudulently, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-908-4490. You will need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039, available at

For more information or to get help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS, call 1-877-777-4778 or download form 911 from

— E-mail:


Tips for preventing identity theft

Tips for preventing identity theft

Identity thieves steal your personal information to commit fraud. They can damage your credit status and cost you time and money restoring your good name. Reduce your risk of becoming a victim:

— Don’t carry your Social Security card or write it on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.

— Protect your PIN. Never write a PIN on a credit/debit card or on a slip of paper kept in your wallet.

— Watch out for “shoulder surfers.” Use your free hand to shield the keypad when using pay phones and ATMs.

— Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home.

— Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.

— Keep your receipts. Ask for carbons and incorrect charge slips as well. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.

— Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.


Actual cases

The following are summaries from the Internal Revenue Service of actual cases involving tax-related identity theft:

— In Raleigh, N.C., two men were sentenced to prison for their roles in an identity theft scheme. The two broke into a tax preparation office, stealing over 300 files containing personal information of tax clients. They then filed 2010 tax returns in the names of the clients and directed the tax refunds to either debit cards, which were mailed to addresses they knew were vacant, or to bank accounts that were opened using fraudulent and unauthorized information.

— Baton Rouge, La., a woman was sentenced to 81 months in prison and three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $699,734 in restitution to the IRS and $11,138 to the Louisiana Department of Revenue. She admitted to submitting hundreds of false tax returns in the names of other individuals. She filed approximately 563 false federal returns, claiming refunds totaling over $700,000.

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