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Tips to protect yourself from identity theft

Posted at: 02/07/2013 5:34 PM
Updated at: 02/07/2013 6:42 PM
By: Amanda Ciavarri

How would you like to file your tax return only to have the IRS say it's already sent your refund to someone else?

IRS officials say they're seeing a significant increase in the number of identity theft cases in the Rochester area.

Last month, 25-year-old Juan Delvalle of Rochester admitted to running a nationwide tax fraud scheme where he collected nearly $3-million in refunds.

We wanted to know how can we protect ourselves and prevent this from happening to us as over the last few years, it’s becoming more and more common.

“Someone will steal your identity and they might file a tax return in your name. They will sometimes doctor the figures to get a bigger refund and they will file the return and get a fraudulent refund. The person won’t know about it until they go to file their own returns.” Special Agent Tim Shanahan with the Internal Revenue Service says this form of identity theft is a growing problem in our area and across the country.

He says there are ways you can keep it from happening to you.
- Protect your Social Security number, don't carry it with you or give it out just because a business asks.
- Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls

“Some of the things we’ve been doing in terms of prevention is we've doubled the number of employees to 3,000 employees in the IRS who are working specifically on identity theft. We have more than 35,000 employees on how to spot signs on identity theft.“

Warning signs that you might be a victim of identity theft:
- If your tax professional tells you more than one tax return for you was filed
- If you have a balance due
- IRS records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned
- State or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting an income change.

If you think you are a victim, the IRS says call them right away. “When refunds are given out to people, we are taking very aggressive steps to prosecute those people. We've actually have over 900 in 2012 and over 540 in just the last few months alone.”

If you are a victim, what are the chances you will get your money back? Shanahan said, “It is a long process and it's very complicated and it's even more complicated by the fact the fraudsters are calling in trying to say they are the legitimate victim.”

For other tips, go to IRS.gov.