Consumer Tip of the Week
Since National Consumer Protection Week happens during tax season, we thought it would be relevant to cover tax filing scams. During tax filing months, identity thieves steal social security numbers to claim dependencies and refunds that are not their own.
If a scammer files a false return early in tax-filing season, it is unlikely to be discovered by the victim until months later. As the taxpayer, you might not even realize this has happened until the IRS declines to process your return because a fraudulent one has already been filed in your name.
Fraud.org has an article on what do if you have been affected by tax ID theft, or who receive a notice from the IRS about a potential problem:
Contact the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. Specialists from the IRS can help you to get your return processed and take steps to protect your IRS account.
Put a fraud alert on your credit reports with the three major credit-reporting agencies. When this is done, when someone tries to obtain credit in your name, the business offering credit must contact you to verify your identity. This initial alert will only last for 90 days, so you may want to renew it after the initial period.
Order your free credits reports for the three major credit-reporting agencies from annualcreditreport.com and check it for errors. If you discover any, dispute them with the reporting agency and the creditor.
File an identity theft complaint with the FTC and save or print the Identity Theft Affidavit that you receive at the end of the process.
File a report with your local police department and keep a copy of the report on file
If someone claiming to be an IRS agent or other government employee calls you demanding payment for “back taxes” or other reasons, simply hang up. If you are still concerned, look up the customer service number for the agency the caller claimed to represent and call the number yourself.
Check back each week of March for more consumer tips
Federal Trade Commission: The FTC is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace. Also check out their newest consumer help website, consumer.gov.
National Consumer Protection Week:Website packed full of resources for consumers and organizations that work to protect them
Fraud.org: A project of the National Consumers League dedicated to fighting fraud
For more information, please visit the Consumer section of www.montanalawhelp.org/. Or, call the Montana Legal Services Association Helpline at 1-800-666-6899.
This Consumer Tip and MontanaLawHelp.org is a joint project of Montana's Credit Unions and Montana Legal Services Association. MontanaLawHelp.org has information about consumer issues, housing, money management, and more.