Guest Opinions

Idaho Tax Commission steps up efforts to prevent fraud from identity theft

It’s no secret that identity theft is a persistent crime that’s time-consuming and frustrating for its victims. When criminals steal your personal data (especially your name and Social Security number), they can use that information to file a fraudulent tax return.

Because tax-related identity theft is an increasing threat, the Idaho State Tax Commission has partnered with the Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax software industry to develop stronger fraud detection and prevention tools for all aspects of the tax filing process in 2016.

Idaho saw a 64 percent increase in stolen identities used to file Idaho income tax returns from 2014 to 2015. This trend is not letting up this year. To help protect you and keep taxpayer dollars from going to criminals, you may be asked for more information when you e-file and the Tax Commission may ask for more information as we process your return.

The Tax Commission has been mailing verification letters to taxpayers. If you receive one, you should take it seriously and reply quickly. The letter may ask you to verify your identity by taking a short online quiz or by providing copies of documents, or verify whether you filed a return by going online and entering some information that’s provided in the letter. Your refund won’t be sent until you respond.

Criminals are becoming more sophisticated. As they evolve, the Tax Commission works to stay one step ahead of them. We continue to refine our methods for detecting and preventing fraudulent returns, and we ask for understanding and patience as we process more than 500,000 refund requests each year.

While we’re working to increase public confidence in the tax filing system, we’re also asking taxpayers to take a few simple steps to help protect their information:

▪ Safeguard your computer when you’re online. Always use security software to combat computer malware and viruses.

▪ Avoid phishing and malware attempts designed to steal your data. Sophisticated identity thieves often pose as your bank, your credit card companies, your tax software provider, your company executives — and even the IRS.

▪ Check credit and bank statements regularly, and review your credit report or Social Security account once a year.

▪ Protect your online passwords. Don’t share them with anyone, and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.

If you suspect your identity has been compromised, request a fraud alert from a credit bureau. Also, if you’re a victim of identity theft and are concerned about your taxes being affected, contact the Tax Commission and the IRS. Identity theft information is available at tax.idaho.gov/idtheft.

We all have a role to play in protecting your data. By working together, we can combat the identity criminals and keep your information secure.

For more details, visit the Tax Commission’s “Security” Web page at tax.idaho.gov/security and the IRS resource page at www.irs.gov/taxessecuritytogether.

Ken A. Roberts is chairman of the Idaho State Tax Commission. Contributing authors include Tax Commissioners Tom Katsilometes, Richard W. Jackson and Elliot Werk.

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