This is the time of year when criminals are most actively plotting and scheming, and credit union members are exposed and vulnerable. Tax scammers are preying on members’ social security numbers for tax-related identity theft and other crimes. In fact, nearly 50% of identity thefts are a result of unauthorized government documents, which include tax filings.
Tax season may just be starting, but these scammers have been hard at work. They’re waiting for an opportunity to steal members’ personal information for fraudulent tax refunds and other transactions. Members that become victims of tax-related identity theft become a high target for other identity crimes since hackers use their same information to sell to the black market, get loans and impersonate the victims in a multitude of other matters.
Being a victim of a tax crime can be a harrowing experience for members. The resolution process with the IRS often takes between 12-24 months. During this time and after, members’ personal information may be used for other crimes. Once the tax-related case has been resolved, IRS will employ measures to help ensure that members’ tax accounts are not compromised again. However, this does not fully protect your members from being victims of other forms of identity theft.
While the tax community must stay on top of security systems to protect taxpaying individuals and their businesses, financial institutions are also being counted on to protect their account holders’ identities and financial account information. Credit unions that offer identity theft recovery and restoration services are best equipped to do this. Victimized members that have been provided with identity theft recovery protection by their credit union can recover and protect their exposed identities easier and more quickly than those that do not have any identity recovery protection. For example, members that are covered by Vero’s IDProSelect through their credit union, are assigned a personal advocate immediately upon confirmation or suspect of any form of identity theft. When members become notified that their social security number has been compromised for tax-related theft, they need only to contact their ID theft advocate, who will handle all resolution steps for the member, as well as will have communication with the member throughout the entire process.
Credit unions should advise their members to:
Use the credit union’s identity theft recovery and restoration service (if one is provided).Vero’s IDProSelect provides complete case resolution, no matter how long it takes or how complicated the case becomes.
Look out for IRS imposters. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gotten thousands of complaints about one kind of scammer in particular — IRS imposters. They call members saying they owe taxes, with threats that they may be arrested if they don’t pay right away. They might know all or part of their Social Security number, and can rig caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from Washington, DC.
File tax returns early in the tax season (before identity thieves do).
Use a secure internet connection if filing electronically. Don’t use unsecure, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots at places like coffee shops or a hotel lobby.
Mail tax returns directly from the post office.
Shred copies of tax returns, drafts, or calculation sheets that are no longer needed.
Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible. Let members know the IRS won’t contact them by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will first contact by mail. Don’t give out Social Security numbers (SSN) or Medicare numbers unless necessary. Check their credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. Members can report IRS imposter scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484, and to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
February 2016 Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Report