Friday, April 10, 2015

Taxing Time

Over the past few years several major cyber attacks have been announced by a number of well known companies such as Target, The Home Depot, and the arts and craft store Michaels.  I have shopped and used my debit/credit card at all of these stores on numerous occasions, and so I was not surprised when I received letters from each stating my banking information may have been compromised. Then JP Morgan Chase was breached, and of course I have a Chase Visa card, so I found another letter in my mailbox informing me that my personal information may have been stolen. Then we learned several health insurance providers including Anthem BlueCross BlueShield and had also been hacked. More letters arrived at my home with the news my personal information including the social security numbers for both my husband and myself may have been stolen. It seems there are daily newspaper articles or news segments on the nightly news dedicated to IRS Identity Theft.

Tax Day, Wednesday, April 15th is rapidly approaching so a few weeks past I gathered all my financial information and visited our accountant. He is a very reputable CPA whom has prepared our tax returns since we were first married many, many years ago. Then last week when he tried to electronically file our tax returns the filings were rejected by both the Federal and State governments. It made me physically sick when I received his phone call informing me that our IRS identity had indeed been stolen. The perpetrator stole both of our social security numbers and filed separate Federal and State tax returns in each of our names. I can't even begin to tell you how angry I am with this scene! My husband and I have worked our entire lives, sometimes two and three jobs at the same time to make ends meet and provide for our family. We have always lived up to our responsibilities and paid our bills in a timely manner. As a result we each individually have excellent credit ratings. So I didn't take it kindly when I learned we had been victims of tax related identity theft!

The IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft offers a wealth of information on the steps to take if you have become a victim. We first met with our financial advisor and were given a list of steps to take to hopefully resolve our tax situation while also protecting our credit scores. We both had to first prepare affidavits stating who we were and that we had been victims of identity theft. If you prepare your taxes on your own you will need to stop by your local IRS office and enlist the aid of an agent to help you prepare the affidavit. You must attach to the affidavit a copy of a legal form of identity such as a valid driver's license or passport. We chose to use our licenses and were told it must be an enlarged copy. So we were off to the nearby FedEx store for copies of our individual licenses. And yes, it also cost us to obtain these enlarged documents. If you are a victim of tax identity theft you must file paper copies of your returns and the affidavits must also be attached to the returns.

Courtesy of

Next we were advised to bring copies of the affidavits to our local police department and file individual police reports. Check, we did that and were given our police report numbers. Make sure you get these numbers because you will need them for the next step.

Now it is time to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can go online and complete the paperwork at or call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 to report your details. I chose to call the hotline and after waiting for several  minutes I was finally connected to an agent and successfully completed reports for both my husband and myself. When making this report you will be asked for the name and phone number of the police department where your identity theft report was filed and you must also provide the FTC with the police report numbers.

Next you need to contact one of the three major credit reporting bureaus to place a "fraud alert" on your credit records. You only need to report your identity theft to one of the agencies as that bureau will contact the other agencies for you. The credit bureau agencies and contact information are as follows:

Equifax:  1-800-525-6285

Experian:  1-888-397-3742

TransUnion:  1-800-680-7289

The credit agency recommends you obtain a copy of your credit report and review it carefully specifically looking for any fraudulent accounts that may have been opened in your name. You can receive a free copy of your credit report at If both your husband and your social security numbers have been stolen you will need to obtain the credit reports for each of you. After reviewing both reports I was starting to feel a bit of relief as everything appeared intact with no negative information nor any identifiable fraudulent accounts. Sadly my relief was short lived. A few days later I received a debit/credit card in the mail.. one I had not applied for nor requested. It was from T-Mobile, had an incomplete name, and an incorrect zip code on the envelope. Somehow by the grace of God, it was delivered to me. At first I thought it was a fake card with an invitation to apply. The more I looked at it I realized it was a real debit/credit card. I then called T-Mobile and after several phone prompts was able to connect to a live customer service representative to discuss what I believed was a fraudulent account in my name. Sure enough, it was an account opened without my permission by someone unknown to me. I was then connected with an Identity Theft Specialist who asked for additional information and promptly closed the account.

Now I wait with apprehension to see what happens next. I mailed the paper copies of my Federal and State tax returns today. Oh, and please let me know if you have been a victim too and what steps you took to correct the situation.

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