Courtesy of the Precinct 4 PENS (Police Email Notification System) bulletin.
With the April 17 deadline rapidly approaching, the Cobb County Police Department wants the public to be alert for attempts by criminals to obtain personal information. A criminal who is able to obtain a person’s name, social security number and other identifying information can file a fraudulent tax return in the victim’s name and collect the refund. Often the unsuspecting victim won’t find out until their own legitimate tax return is flagged for denial.
It is important that taxpayers protect their personal information. Anyone who believes his or her personal information has been stolen and used for fraudulent tax purposes should immediately contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
Criminals trick victims into revealing their personal or financial information online. One method is phishing. It occurs when thieves use phony email or websites to contact potential victims often posing as the IRS. The email address used may only differ slightly from the real email address and can easily be mistaken. A suspicious email or an IRS website that does not begin with http://www.irs.gov should be forwarded to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spyware is another tool. Thieves steal personal information with computer software that gathers and reports information about a computer user without the user's knowledge or consent. It gets downloaded onto the taxpayer’s computer once he or she opens an email attachment or clicks a link sent by the thief. The best advice is to never open an attachment or click on a link that is sent by someone you do not know. Legitimate financial institutions generally will not contact you by email to confirm your personal information, username, or pass code. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of an email sent from your financial institution or the IRS, call them by the publicly listed phone number and not the one contained in the email to verify authenticity.
Whenever possible, use IRS direct deposit to avoid the chance that your tax refund check may get stolen from your mailbox.
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