As the April 15 tax filing deadline approaches, tax refund fraud is a growing problem. Here are tips from the federal government on how to avoid becoming a victim, and how to respond if you have become one.
TO PROTECT AGAINST IDENTITY THEFT
--Don't carry your Social Security card or documents that show your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
--Don't give a business your Social Security number just because someone asks. Give it only when required.
--Check your credit report every 12 months.
--Secure personal information in your home.
--Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
--Don't give personal information over the phone, through the mail or online unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
IF YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE A VICTIM
--If you receive a notice from the IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice.
--If you did not receive an IRS notice but believe you've been a victim, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245.
--Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.ftc.gov or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338.
--File a report with the local police.
--Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax - www.equifax.com, 800-525-6285; Experian - www.experian.com, 888-397-3742; TransUnion - www.transunion.com, 800-680-7289.
--Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.