Guest View I
In an effort to bring greater awareness to the crime of tax identity theft, I have authored a House resolution recognizing Jan. 29 through Feb. 2 as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week in Pennsylvania.
Tax identity theft occurs when someone steals a person’s personal information, often obtained through old tax returns, and uses it to file current fraudulent tax returns in someone else’s name in order to receive a tax refund.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax refund fraud is the largest and fastest-growing identity theft category. Taxpayers in their 20s are at the highest risk for tax identity theft victimization; however, anyone at any age can be targeted.
The best way to safeguard a person’s identity is to properly dispose of any documents that contain personal and identifying information by shredding bank and credit card statements, as well as old tax returns.
In addition, individuals should use firewall and anti-virus software on devices, create strong passwords on websites, and refrain from opening emails from unknown senders.
In addition to using stolen information to get a tax refund, thieves may also use stolen Social Security numbers to get a job.
If you receive a letter from the IRS saying more than one tax return was filed in your name, or IRS records show you have wages from an employer you don’t know, then you may be the victim of tax identity theft.
Also, if you suspect a letter, email or telephone call about your tax records is a scam, call the Pa. Department of Revenue at 717-787-8201 or the IRS at 800-829-1040.
During Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, the Federal Trade Commission and its partners will be hosting a series of free events, including webinars and Twitter chats about how individuals can protect themselves from tax identity theft and what to do if they become a victim.
For information, go toconsumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0029-tax-identity-theft-awareness-week. Identity theft comes in many forms and we, as society, need to be vigilant and take extra steps to safeguard our personal information in order to prevent this escalating category of crimes.
Editor’s note: State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, a Republican, represents the 134th Legislative District, which includes, Alburtis, Lower Macungie Township, Macungie, Salisbury Township (Wards 4 and 5) and South Whitehall (Districts 3 and 4) in Lehigh County; and Hereford, Longswamp, Richmond and Rockland townships, and Topton borough in Berks County.