LINCOLN, Neb. – As tax-filing season begins, federal and state officials are warning Nebraskans to be cautious about protecting their personal information.
Ryan Sothan, outreach coordinator with the Nebraska Attorney General’s office, explained tax ID fraud is one of the fastest growing scams around. And if thieves get their hands on your Social Security number, they can use it to try to file a false tax return and take your hard-earned refund.
“The average return for a U.S. consumer is $3,100,” Sothan said. “So if I buy a bank of stolen Social Security numbers and submit fraudulent returns, whether it’s ten or 100, and if each one averages $3,100, that’s good income.”
For questions or concerns about suspected tax fraud, Nebraskans can call the AG’s office at 800-742-7474; for questions about federal returns, the website is IdentityTheft.gov. This is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.
If someone becomes the victim of tax identity theft, Sothan said chances are it could manifest in other financial areas as well.
“You might find that new credit accounts have been established in your name, or you might be receiving bills for utilities - whether it’s gas, water, heat, electric, cable, cellular, landline - in your name but at addresses you don’t recognize,” he said. “Those are the other signs of identity theft.”
Sothan said something else Nebraskans should be mindful about is the 2017 Equifax data breach. More than 145 million Americans were impacted. He said the IRS only anticipates receiving 155 million individual tax returns, which shows how large a percentage of the overall filing base is at risk.
“And so we do anticipate that there is a percentage of the U.S. population - and this will impact Nebraskans - that will find for the first time ever that they’ve had their identity stolen when they receive a notice from the IRS,” Sothan said.
Such a notice from the IRS would indicate more than one tax return was filed under your Social Security number, or that records show you were paid by an employer you don’t know. The IRS does not request personal information from taxpayers through emails, texts or social-media messages.