People all across the country and right here in Southern Colorado are discovering they are the victims of identity theft. But this type of scam is hard to detect, until tax season rolls around.
All a criminal needs is your name and Social Security number. They use your information to get a job and pay very little on taxes.
Victims discover the theft after they file their taxes. Police say typically they receive a notice from the IRS in the mail, saying they didn’t file taxes on all their incomes.
"Here in Colorado, if you get a notice that you worked in an auto body shop in New Jersey and you haven't, those are the red flags,” said Detective Gerald LeRay with the Pueblo Police Department.
The thieves make bank by only paying a little each month on taxes. They then leave the job and walk away with the income they made, leaving you with the heavy taxes for money you never earned.
Police say the scam is very hard to detect until victim file those taxes.
“The suspect can start working in May and potentially have eight, nine months before it’s discovered,” said LeRay.
It could be even longer that they collect wages under your name.
LeRay, who specializes in identity theft cases says typically the jobs the thieves work at are migratory jobs, ones that don’t last a year. These could be such jobs as construction, manufacturing, farming, etc. Jobs where employers don’t always verify the information, wanting workers who will do the grunt work for less.
If you fear you are a victim of this crime, call the IRS and make sure to get the name of the employee you talked to, their employee number, and write down the dates and time.
If you are afraid you are a victim of identity theft, call police. Or you can report an identity theft crime at any law enforcement agency.
The IRS provides a few indications that your identity may have been stolen:
-You filed more than one tax return or 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 you did not file
-You received wages from an employer you have not worked for.
You can find more of this information on their website: www.banks.com/taxes
Police say the notice you would receive from the IRS would never come through e-mail, always mail. And if you see e-mails claiming to be the IRS, here are some flags to look for:
-An e-mail address that does not end in .gov or .us
-Improper use of the English language
-Improper spacing between letters
-Hyperlinks that have weird words or don’t make sense
Police suggest when looking over these e-mails read them aloud to see if the English language makes sense. Don’t click on the hyperlink until it has been deemed safe.
So how can you protect yourself against this scam? Police say the best way to stop this crime is prevention.
Police urge you to protect your Social Security number and card. Here are some ways to protect it:
-Never bring your Social Security card with you in a wallet or purse
-Always lock up your card in a safe or safety deposit box
-Never give your Social Security number online unless it’s a secure site
-Never e-mail your Social Security information
How might someone steal your number? According to the Social Security Administration, identity thieves get your personal information by:
-Stealing wallets, purses, and your mail (bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, and tax information)
-Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the internet, from business or personal records at work, and personal information in your home
-finding personal data by rummaging through your trash, the trash of businesses, and public trash dumps
-Posing by phone or e-mail as someone who legitimately needs information about you, such as employers, landlords, etc.
-Buying personal information from “inside sources.” For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services, or credit.
For more information about how to protect your social security card, visit the Social Security Administration’s website: www.ssa.gov
Police also encourage you to do monthly checks, check your credit report regularly, monitor your spending and bank accounts.
LeRay reminds you that you don’t need to bring your Social Security card with you anymore for identification, unless applying for a job or things of that nature.
“The biggest failsafe, the biggest thing a consumer can do is to lock their Social Security card up in a safe or safety deposit box. There is no reason that anyone in 21st century America should be carrying their Social Security card around,” said LeRay.
LeRay says the new form of ID is a photo ID.
11 News is asking the IRS if you would be liable to pay those taxes. We will let you know what we find out.
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