NH Consumer Warning: Identity Thieves Trolling for Your Tax Refund
CONCORD, N.H. - Local consumer advocates warn that identity thieves are working overtime this year, trying to get people to reveal personal information by email and phone so they can steal tax refunds. Harold Moldoff, a volunteer "Fraud Fighter" with AARP New Hampshire, said identity thieves have already made off with an estimated $5.2 billion in fraudulent tax refunds.
Most scammers work by phone and by email, he said, and they usually entice consumers with a money-making proposition.
"They say, 'We'll get you $80 in extra refunds if you complete the following customer survey for the IRS,'" he explained. "It's a scam; the IRS does not do that."
Moldoff said consumers should know that the IRS only makes initial contact through the U.S. mail; agents never use e-mail or phone for that purpose. Tax refund theft is up 60 percent over last year, he warned, and is the fastest-growing form of identity theft.
Consumers can file to have the IRS correct the problem, he added, but noted that many people are in desperate need of their tax return, and the process can take a while.
"The average refund is $3,000," he said. "Theft puts people in financial distress until they finally get the money that's owed to them, and that can take up to six months."
While there is no way for taxpayers to be 100 percent sure their identity is safe, Moldoff says people can use the clock to reduce the odds of becoming a victim of this kind of tax fraud.
"You're certainly so much better off getting it filed as quickly as possible," he said, "so if somebody does in fact try to steal your identity to file for a fraudulent tax refund, you've already beaten them to it."
Anyone who thinks they might be a victim of tax refund fraud should notify the IRS by contacting the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, ext. 245.