The “identity” of millions of individuals continues to be stolen by savvy thieves each year in the United States.
Today’s thieves are going after not just old bank statements, but old tax returns, and they are not just rooting through the trash, but are often using skimmers to collect credit card information or are getting information electronically through poorly safeguarded personal computers.
It is more important than ever to shred documents containing personal information and have anti-virus software and firewall protections on your computers, along with creating strong passwords on websites.
One of the lesser know types of identity theft is tax identity theft.
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 to receive a tax refund.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax refund fraud is the largest and fastest-growing identity theft category.
In an effort to draw more attention to this crime and what people can do to protect themselves, I have authored a resolution designating Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.
In addition to using stolen information to get a tax refund, thieves may also use stolen Social Security numbers to obtain 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.
If you suspect a letter, email or telephone call about your tax records is a scam, call the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue at 717-787-8201 or the IRS at 800-829-1040.
If you suspect you have been the victim of identity theft, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov.
To further help individuals protect themselves from identity thieves, I routinely host document shredding events in the district.
Periodically check my website, RepMackenzie.com, or follow me on Facebook.com/RepMackenzie, or Twitter.com/RepMackenzie, to find out when a shredding event will be available near you.
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.