SAN FRANCISCO — California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris recently issued the following tips for Californians to follow to prevent tax-related identity theft as the annual tax compiling and filing process begins.
Tax-related identity theft increases in January and commonly occurs when:
- Thieves use stolen personal information to file tax returns in someone else’s name in order to obtain a refund.
- Thieves use a stolen Social Security number for employment, which may complicate state and federal income tax obligations for the victim.
- Thieves send phishing e-mails that look like they are from the Internal Revenue Service or the Franchise Tax Board that ask for personal information or include links to official-looking websites.
California consumers are urged to use the following tips to better prevent tax-related identity theft:
- Never open an email or a text message that says it is from the IRS or the FTB; they are always fraudulent. State and federal tax agencies never initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail, text message or social media to request personal or financial information or to send notice regarding audits or refunds.
- It’s fine to show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a job or to your financial institution for tax reporting purposes. Do not routinely carry your card or other documents that display your SSN.
- While preparing your tax return for electronic filing, make sure to use a strong password. A strong password is at least eight characters and includes a combination of at least three upper and/or lowercase letters, punctuation, symbols and numerals.
- Once you have e-filed your return, save it to a flash drive, CD or similar device and then delete the tax information from your hard drive. Store the CD or flash drive in a safe place, such as a lock box or safe. If working with an accountant, ask about what measures they take to protect your information.
- Use a locked mailbox and don’t leave your mail in it for long periods of time. Take your mail that contains sensitive information (bills, tax returns) to the post office.
- If your SSN is stolen, reference the California Attorney General’s Identity Theft First Aid page for instructions on what to do: oag.ca.gov/idtheft/first-aid.
You may have a tax identity theft problem if you receive a letter from the IRS or FTB stating that:
- You filed more than one tax return,
- Someone has already filed using your information,
- You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year in which you did not file a return, or
- You received wages from an employer for whom you have not worked.
If you receive such a letter (not an e-mail) from the IRS or FTB, immediately contact the agency’s identity theft unit:
Internal Revenue Service: [email protected]
IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit
California Franchise Tax Board: ftb.ca.gov/individuals/id_theft.shtml#ID
ID Theft Resolution Coordinator
Internal Revenue Service
Identity Theft web pages: irs.gov/uac/Suspicious-e-Mails-and-Identity-Theft and
Franchise Tax Board
Identity theft web page: ftb.ca.gov/individuals/id_theft.shtml#ID
California Attorney General
Identity Theft Protection and First Aid: oag.ca.gov/idtheft