Protect Yourself from Tax-Related Identity Theft

Identity theft has become a growing concern in Ohio and across the United States as it is one of the most costly crimes to consumers and businesses, and is the fastest growing white collar crime in America according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Securing IDs is essential to not only protecting consumers from financial loss and shoring up the world's finest financial system, but also to securing our homeland from criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists. The protection of personal identification and financial records is an important part in preventing such plagues as meth addiction, white collar fraud, and terrorism.

Ohioans should be vigilant to protect themselves and our community from the dangers caused by identity thieves. If you become a victim of ID theft, please contact my office for personal assistance or visit the Federal Trade Commission identity theft website for advice on how to secure your personal data as well as what to do if your identity is stolen.

WHERE TO GO FOR HELPIdentityTheft.gov website is up and running!  On that site, there’s a page with steps to take to help resolve specific problems, so you can click here for a check list of immediate steps for what a victim needs to do.  New features provide users with free personal recovery plans tailored to their individual circumstances, step-by-step guidance, and pre-filled letters and forms to send to creditors, credit reporting agencies, debt collectors, and the IRS. 

The site provides recovery steps for more than 30 types of identity theft and is available in Spanish at RobodeIdentidad.gov. Also, you can check out the new video about the website, and spread the word at speaking events, and to family and friends.

VICTIM ASSISTANCE GUIDES:  Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims (Guide). The Guide was developed by the FTC to help attorneys and victim service providers chart their way through and resolve legal problems that pro bono clients may have following the theft of their identity. Or if you need something in hardcopy for printing out and sending to constituents, here’s the FTC’s comprehensive guide for recovery titled “Taking Charge: What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen.” The booklet can also be ordered online at http://bulkorder.ftc.gov/.

FOR TAX ID THEFT VICTIMS:  The FTC has webpage devoted to Tax ID Theft that includes advice for victims.  Also, check out this new Network of ID Theft Victim Assistance Coalitions – Here to Help. If you think your tax refund has been stolen, the NITVAN website outlines steps you can take at www.identitytheftnetwork.org/gethelp/taxidt.  You’ll see in there that you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit 1-800-908-4490 to report the fraud.

FILING A COMPLAINT WITH THE FTC:  If you are a victim, you should file a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form; or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.  The FTC has counselors fielding phone calls to receive consumer complaints and offer individual assistance from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday with the exception of federal holidays.  Or you can write to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. 

HOW COMPLAINTS ARE MANAGED:  The FTC, the nation's consumer protection agency, collects complaints about companies, fraud, unfair business practices and identity theft.  The FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints.  However, complaints can help law enforcement officials detect patterns of wrong-doing, and lead to investigations and prosecutions. The FTC enters all complaints it receives into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide.  We also provide training to law enforcers on how to use the database for investigations.

CREDIT ALERTS AND FREEZES:  Something to think about if you’re information has been compromised or stolen: Initiate a credit freeze.  What is a credit freeze?  A credit freeze allows a consumer restrict access to his or her credit report.  If you place a credit freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze.  Another option:  Once you have filed a police report to demonstrate you are an identity theft victim, that would allow you to place a fraud alert or renewal for free.