Things you need to be Aware of In the Field of Identity Theft
By: Edwin L. Crammer CPA – As a Certified Public Accountant licensed in the State of Florida I have tried to steer clear of articles on the subject of accounting or tax because this is not what this publication is all about. However, as a taxpayer and possible reader of this column, I wish to make you aware of certain areas that need your attention in regards to the field of identity theft. If you want to know the latest tax facts information, e-mail me at the end of the year and I will send you a complimentary copy of my year end newsletter, chock full of pertinent tax information.
I say field of identity theft because in the eyes of those who practice this craft it is a business. In my business I started to become aware of identity theft problem among my clients about ten years ago. At that time maybe one or two clients each year seemed to have a problem that needed investigating. The problems showed up when we tried to electronically file their tax returns and they were rejected. The reason was that somebody had already filed a tax return using one of the social security numbers on the tax return that was filed.
My solution, at the time was to have the taxpayers file a tax return by mail. It seemed to work. The problem became endemic about five years ago, when about ten percent of the tax returns filed were rejected for the same reason. At first some of the clients thought it was a problem from my end by possibly entering a social security number incorrectly or some other act that was not correct. This was before it became a discussion in the mainstream media from reports of other accountants who were having the same problem.
For the next two years it became a nightmare for those taxpayers that were caught up in the problem on a personal level. It took most of them almost a year to get the refund due after numerous discussions with the IRS. For those of you who have talked to the IRS in the past, you know how daunting this can be.
Some of the problems that were easily solved were the case, where a taxpayer claimed their teenage son or daughter on their tax return as they had always done. The teenager that year worked on their first job and a friend told him if he filed a tax return early he would be due a refund. The problem was that the teenager who earned a minimal amount of money claimed themselves on their tax return without telling the parent. The parent, at a later time, filed their own tax return and claimed that same teenager. Well when the parents tried to e-file their tax return it was rejected. The sad thing in most of these cases the income earned by the teenager was so minimal that if they would have filed their tax return and not claimed themselves they would have gotten the same refund.
Part of the problem of identity theft in the past was that people were too cavalier in their handling of the availability of their social security numbers. Credit card companies and other organizations that used social security numbers as part of their recognition factor is what they used to identify customers routinely they published the social security numbers of their customers on their statements. Then to compound the situation, the customer threw the statements into their garbage cans with the trash after they had reviewed them.
Now that most people and businesses have become aware of the problem the vendors as well as the IRS are now printing the last four numbers of the social security numbers on their statements. The IRS has put together a task force bent on cracking down on the problem and the perpetrators Taxpayers who were victims in the past, are now routinely issued a pin number to use in filing there next tax return. The pin number is changed each year.
As a result after taking the above steps and making a number of much publicized arrests the problem is starting to go away.
However, as a taxpayer you are not in the clear. There is always someone out there coming up with a scheme to get your money. The latest scheme is you receive a telephone call from an individual who claims that they are a revenue agent from the IRS. They sound very convincing on the telephone. They tell you that they have been reviewing the files and find that you owe back taxes from a prior year or two. They name a dollar figure that is due. They tell you that because this is an old tax liability it is seriously past due and needs to be paid immediately. They suggest you pay through Pay Pal or Western Union so it does not get stuck in the system. If you fail to take care of this immediately you will be subject to prosecution possibly criminal. If they call when you are not home they leave a daunting message to call them back immediately and leave a return telephone number.
Most people will recognize that there is something wrong with this telephone call. They know that the IRS does not call you on the telephone until a number of other methods of collection would be attempted by mail. If so you would know you had a liability.
The other thing you should know that the IRS always use an 800 type number when they call you. These people do not use an 800 type number. However, there are a number of people who become paranoid when they hear the word IRS they do rash things without thinking and will send the caller money.
If you get this type of telephone call and you know you do not owe any money, just hang up or do not call them back if they leave a message. If you are still not sure, copy down their telephone number and relay it to your accountant. Do you know that you can go online and do a reverse search of a contact by entering the telephone number? It will tell you who the telephone number belongs to. If it says that it is an unlisted telephone number you will know it is a phony telephone call.
The IRS in a recent bulletin states the following:
They will not call you cold without sending you a letter first
Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to appeal
Demand payment with a credit or debit card and ask for the number of the
account, request payment of the debt through Western Union.
Threaten you with arrest or a lawsuit
So protect your assets, as I said if you are not sure call your accountant for assistance.
You may contact Edwin L. Crammer CPA at: Edwin@edwinlcrammerpa.com
Post Script: When it comes to replacing a President in this country we go through a ritual of choosing an acceptable candidate from each of the two meaningful parties, to run against each other, in what is commonly called an election. In Great Britain things are different for example: The sitting Prime Minister is sitting home in the morning eating his Porridge, sipping his morning cup of tea and reading his newspaper. Late in the morning he departs #10 which is where he has lived, wearing his coat, hat in hand and his suitcase in the other hand. In the afternoon his replacement shows up with a suitcase ready to move in and take residence.
I hope they have time to change the sheets and put out clean towels in the bathroom. Or maybe they don’t. After all they do things different in Britain as you can see. Whew!
Post Script #2: Is it my imagination or am I crazy, but did Donald Trump, use the same playbook as he did for the show the Apprentice, in choosing his Vice President candidate.