Remember our last post on identity theft?
Here’s a brief summary:
Tax refund fraud is up to $21 BILLION! Increased online services from the IRS allow hackers more opportunities to steal taxpayer identities and file for fraudulent refunds. More than 330,000 taxpayers were affected by a security breach in May 2015.
Why are we talking about this issue again?
Because it isn’t going away and because it’s affecting a lot of Pennsylvania taxpayers! The Journal of Accountancy just published an article citing that 63% of polled CPAs said at least one of their clients fell victim to tax identity theft in the 2014 filing season.
The polled CPAs also stated that they had some difficulty dealing with IRS in attempts to resolve the issues. “Some difficulty” is an understatement! Our team spends hours on hold with the IRS when we need to resolve a simple tax notice or to work through an identity theft issue. The 10% of CPAs who are lucky enough to be connected to an agent (Have you heard of the Courtesy Disconnects? Trust us, they are not pleasant!) spend at least an hour on hold and are forced to deal with low levels of customer service from the IRS. Should a CPA need to follow up on an identity theft issue, the red tape gets even longer! The IRS refuses to assign a single IRS agent to specific cases, so the CPA has to repeat the details of the identity theft issue to multiple agents, wasting time again.
The Pittsburgh Business Times released study results that indicate that Pennsylvania is one of the top places for identity theft. In 2014, Pennsylvania had 172,426 cases of tax-related identity theft, second only to Florida. Pittsburgh had the second highest amount of identity theft cases in the state at 10,737, behind Philadelphia.
We can’t stress enough the importance of being careful with your personal information online. We also recommend that our clients enroll in an Identity Protection Service, like Life Lock. This program alerts you when your information is used to get a loan or to open a credit card. Also, most of our staff have applied for IRS Identity Protection Pins. The IRS Identity Protection Pin is an identifying number reported on your tax return, in addition to your Social Security number. Once you’ve applied for a PIN, you must include it on your tax return in order for your return to be accepted and your refund to be processed. The IRS will send you a new PIN every year.
Contact us today. We can help you to better protect yourself and your family from identity theft!