BOISE, Idaho (News Release) – What if you file your income taxes only to learn that someone already filed a return using your name and Social Security number? Unfortunately, you won’t be alone if this happens to you.

The Idaho State Tax Commission saw a 64 percent increase in stolen identities used to file Idaho income tax returns from 2014 to 2015, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports a 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents designed to steal personal information this tax season. The Tax Commission wants you to be aware of some identity theft scams and what steps you should take if you become a victim.

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Some of the most common scams include:

  • Phone scams: Phone calls from criminals impersonating tax officials who say they’re looking at your tax return but need you to give them your Social Security number and click on a website. Criminals may also call to seek other personal information or demand immediate payment, threaten arrest, criminal prosecution, account seizure, deportation or the filing of a lien against your property. When in doubt about a caller, hang up and call the organization the caller claimed to be representing for confirmation.
  • “Phishing” or “spoofing” emails: These emails look official but are actually fake emails that often go to fake websites, designed to steal personal information. Criminals pose as your bank, your credit card company, your tax software provider, your company executives – and even the IRS. Cybercriminals have used spoofing emails to appear as internal emails between a company officer and a payroll or human resource manager to get a list of employees and copies of W-2s or Social Security numbers. The criminal then files fraudulent tax returns for refunds.

So far this tax season, the Tax Commission has saved more than $452,000 of Idaho refunds from getting into the hands of identity theft criminals. And the agency is sending letters to some taxpayers to verify their identity and that they filed the return before issuing a refund. Taxpayers also have a role in safeguarding their confidential information and knowing what to be on the alert for.

You may be a victim of identity theft if:

  • Your attempt to e-file your tax return is rejected.
  • You receive a letter about a tax return you haven’t filed yet.
  • Someone calls or emails you pretending to be the IRS.
  • You were notified by an employer or vendor that your personal information was part of a data breach.

“Most of us are already victims of identity theft. Our personal information just hasn’t been used yet,” said Tawnya Eldredge, the Tax Commission’s Identity Theft Victim Assistance coordinator.

“If you become aware that someone has used your personal information, it can be overwhelming. Please call us at the Tax Commission. We’ll help clear up your tax issues so you can get your refund, and we’ll get you started on the next steps.”

If you discover that you’re an identity theft victim, here’s what we suggest you do:

  • Visit the Tax Commission’s “Identity Theft” web page, and then call us so we can help you protect yourself from further harm. Also notify the IRS.
  • File a police report with your local law enforcement.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and keep a copy for your records.
  • Check your credit through and request a fraud alert on your account.
  • Keep monitoring your personal accounts (bank, credit, etc.), and stay alert for attempts to use your identity. Victims are more likely to be preyed upon repeatedly.

To report suspected tax fraud from identity theft, call the Tax Commission toll-free at 800-972-7660.