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Health care fraud: up to 10% of your medical expenses


Health care fraud is hardly new. However, according to a recent report from BDO, an accounting and consulting firm based in the U.K., it is responsible for up to 10% of all health care costs in the U.S.  For Medicare specifically, fraud represents $60 billion, or 10% of annual Medicare expenditures.

$1 billion Medicare fraud case just announced

The Justice Department recently announced the largest health care fraud case ever brought against individuals in this country. Philip Esformes, owner of about 30 nursing facilities in Florida has been charged with defrauding Medicare and Medicaid of more than $1 billion.

Preying on the elderly: At the core of the fraud scheme, prosecutors maintain, was cycling 14,000 older men and women in and out of nursing homes and assisted living facilities–whether they needed medical care or not. Esformes is also accused of giving narcotics to elderly patients. That way, patients had to stay in the facilities even longer, to treat their addiction.

Esformes and two other defendants billed Medicare for medical care, medical equipment, and high-priced drugs that patients either didn’t need or never received. The scheme involved paying kickbacks to doctors, pharmacists, health care consultants and other medical personnel.

The amount of cash taken by Esformes over the last 14 years: more than $4 million. The money paid for a “$600,000 watch, the leasing of private jets and chauffeured limousines, and periodic trips with escorts to a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Orlando,” as reported in the NY Times.

What you can do to help prevent health care fraud

Prosecutions for health care fraud have increased recently. But $100 billion in estimated annual fraud costs is still a huge number. As is the case with other types of fraud–such as identity theft and e-mail scams–each of us can help protect ourselves and others.

Here, from the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, are the key types of health care fraud,  some key ways in which all of us can help prevent, stop, and report the fraud that costs us so much money, and contributes to steadily rising health care premiums.

  • Take notes: Keep track of the dates and times of your doctors’ appointments, what occurred, and what treatments or medications were prescribed during those appointments.
  • Check statements: If you–or your parents–are covered by Medicare, check every statement that comes in.  See if Medicare was billed for diagnostic tests or services that the doctor never provided; look for anything that seems unusual.
  • Say “No” to freebies: If anyone approaches you anywhere and offers free services, groceries, or anything else in exchange for your Medicare number, say, “No, thanks” and walk away.
  • Never give out your Medicare number on the phone: If anyone phones and asks you to participate in a  “health survey,” then asks you for your Medicare number, hang up.
  • Ask questions: If a doctor, other health care provider, or a supplier tells you that medical equipment or services are free, and that all you need to do is give them your Medicare number, be suspicious. Ask how the cost of the equipment or treatments will be paid. Then ask yourself if the answer seems reasonable.
  • If you suspect Medicare fraud of any type, call 1-800-Medicare.
  • If you suspect any other type of health care fraud, call 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

See more posts on how to protect yourself or your parents, from becoming fraud victims.

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Smartphone scams are particularly dangerous

 Forward-all-spam-to-7726-croppedAs we’ve talked about in this blog,  phishing scams are a growing threat to everyone. Basically, phishing e-mails are attempts at identity theft. Scammers try to get you to click on a link that puts malware on your computer. Or they ask you to validate your personal information, account numbers, passwords, Social Security number, etc.—all in an attempt to steal your identity.

Texts more likely to be fraudulent

Now, according to Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life, fraudsters are turning their attention to smartphones. The reason, he reports, is that people are three times more likely to respond to texted spam on their cell phones than they are to iffy e-mail messages on desktops or laptops.

The danger, Kirschheimer notes, in the March issue of the AARP Bulletin, is that more than one-fourth of the text-message spam you receive is intended to defraud you. This compares with only about 10% of spam that arrives in your e-mail Inbox.

Among the most common smartphone scams:

  • Voice messages telling you have won a sweepstakes prize or that a package was unable to be delivered to you.
  • Calls that ring only once. (The idea is for you to call back out of curiosity and pay $30 or more for an international call when you do.)
  • Callers who hang up when you answer (Also $30+ phone bills when you reply.)
  • Messages supposedly from your bank or credit card company that there is a problem with your account, and asking you to click a link.

Stay safe from smartphone fraud

Don’t answer: The smartest way to avoid cell phone scams is the same as it is with any suspicious e-mails: Don’t answer or reply to them.

If you’re concerned about any possible problems with your bank or a credit card company, call the bank or credit card issuer yourself—using a phone number you know is correct.

If you believe a call is coming from a legitimate business, and you want to be removed from their phone list, hang up and call them yourself. Don’t press any numbers, assuming that will prevent future calls. That may be the way scammers double-check that they have a working cell phone number.

Be wary of unfamiliar phone numbers: Consider not answering any phone calls that come from unfamiliar numbers. If the person leaves a voice message, you’ll have an opportunity to determine whether the call is legitimate, or a likely scam. Then you can follow safety precautions.

Dangerous area codes:  Do not answer or respond to calls from unfamiliar area codes. Specifically, Kirchheimer warns, beware of calls that come from the following area codes: 268, 284, 473, 649, 664, 767, 809, 829, 849, or 876.

Don’t click: The same goes for unfamiliar texts. Don’t click on any links at all.  If you’re offered the opportunity to unsubscribe, don’t do it. That only confirms that the fraudsters have your correct wireless phone number.

Similarly, go to the URL, or Internet address, of any company you believe may have sent a legitimate message. Contact customer support or technical support at the actual company’s Website or phone number.

Forward spam texts to 7726 (SPAM):  All of the major wireless phone providers permit you to forward spam calls to them at no cost. Doing so may not stop spam contacts immediately. But it should help the providers develop better security systems—and hopefully, systems that will prevent such calls from getting through in the first place.

See more posts on how to protect yourself, your family, and your business from various forms of cyberfraud and identity theft.

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Mom and Dad may be more at risk of fraud than you think

Fraud and its cost to seniorsYou know your parents are careful when it comes to taking common-sense safety precautions such as not opening the front door to strangers, or keeping doors and windows locked at night.

Unfortunately, they may a lot less careful when it comes to  their money. A surprising new survey by True Link Financial shows that your Mom and Dad may be particularly at risk of fraud if they are:

  • Extremely friendly–Members of this group are 4 times more likely to be defrauded, possibly because they’re more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt
  • Financially sophisticated–They’re used to moving around large amounts of money
  • Frugal–Thrifty seniors are 5 times more likely to be sucked into a scam because they’re always looking for bargains

The fact is, fraudsters have gotten much more sophisticated and last year tricked seniors out of a staggering $36.48 billion.

Danger to seniors is everywhere

Take a look at the chart above, which is adapted from the True Link report.  See how seniors are being victimized, and the amount of money they lose to fraud. Then consider warning your parents about the best ways to protect themselves. Among the most important:

  • Never open a link in an e-mail that comes from anyone you don’t know–Always check the return e-mail address to see if it’s from the Website address of the source it claims to be from. If you have any questions, contact the agency or business by going to their Website.
  • Never provide any personal information whatsoever in an e-mail. The IRS, other government agencies, Internet companies, banks, and reputable businesses never request personal information or confirmation of passwords by e-mail. In fact, the IRS only contacts people via U.S. mail.
  • Never give any personal information of any kind over the phone, unless you initiated the contact– Again, one of the biggest scams going on today involves a caller saying that he or she is from the IRS, that you owe money, and threatening you with jail or a huge fine if you don’t pay right now. Anyone who gets a call like that should hang up immediately. When in doubt about any IRS matter, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.

See more examples of how con artists are stealing money from seniors and how to avoid–or help your parents avoid–being victimized. Also see how we can protect you and your business from losing money to embezzlers and other fraudsters.

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How not to be a victim of holiday fraud

Avoid-holiday-fraud-Santa-hatWhether many of us simply aren’t worried about being ripped off, or we just let our guard down at holiday time, huge numbers of us unwittingly set ourselves up for being fraud victims.

A just-released  survey of adults over 18 showed that despite the fact that we read about cyber fraud almost every day, and we certainly don’t want all our money withdrawn from our bank accounts, a surprising number of us don’t practice safe shopping.

Here are some of shoppers’ key vulnerabilities, especially at holiday time.

Internet shopping via Wi-Fi

Shopping or accessing your bank account or other financial accounts while using a public Wi-Fi connection is a recipe for disaster. Most wireless networks in coffee shops, big-box stores, and other public settings simply are not secure. If you use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection to shop or check bank balances, almost anyone can hack into your phone and intercept store account numbers, logins and passwords, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, etc.

Moreover, despite what many consumers believe, seeing the letters “https” on a site no longer ensures that the site is safe to use.

The fact is, it’s shockingly easy to be ripped off simply by having your phone connected to a Wi-Fi network. Many security experts now suggest that even if you’re not using the Internet at the time, you should turn off your W-Fi connection in public.

Credit cards vs. debit cards

Here’s fraud prevention advice that’s unfamiliar to many consumers. According to the newly released AARP consumer survey, nearly two-thirds (64%) of holiday shoppers in the U.S. said they will buy some or all of their holiday gifts using a debit card.

If at all possible, don’t do it.

The reason: If your credit card is lost or stolen, your liability is a maximum of $50. Debit card loss or theft can cost you much more.

For example if you report a debit card missing before any withdrawals are made from your bank account, you will owe nothing. However, if you report the card missing between two and 60 days after it disappears, you may be liable for up to $500. Eventually, you can be liable for the entire loss–even if thieves clean out your entire bank account.

Never buy gift cards from store displays

The safest way to buy a gift card for a friend or family member is through the store or merchant’s Website. If you don’t have time to purchase it online and must pick up a gift card in a retail store, deal only with reputable and familiar merchants–not on e-Bay or other auction sites. Always check the card carefully for signs it may have been tampered with–such as a messy scratch-off PIN area.

Fraudsters use a magnetic-strip scanner, or actually copy the gift card number, then look at the PIN. Once they’ve copied the numbers down, they simply cover up the PIN with a new sticker. Then they place the gift card back on the rack.

It’s easy to do and costs the thief almost nothing, as you can see in this ad for new scratch-off stickers that recently was posted on e-Bay.

The way most gift card fraud works is that fraudsters keep checking to see if cards have been activated, as well as for the balances on cards they’ve tampered with. As soon as they see a card has been used, they go shopping online. Or they redeem the balance on the card for reward points to use to buy merchandise–which is harder to track than shopping with the card and having items delivered to a residence. Or they go to sites on which people can exchange gift cards for a discounted amount of cash.

The best way to safely buy a gift card in person is to buy it from a merchant who stores gift cards in a locked case or behind the register. In addition, ask the cashier to scan the card to check the balance before you buy it.

Most important–keep your receipt. If you get the card home and find it drained of funds, you may be able to recoup your losses by going back to the merchant that sold the card or the store where the gift card is redeemable. (Click here to learn more about the burgeoning crime of gift card fraud.)

Packages delivered to your home

It’s always risky to have packages delivered to your home if you’re not there to sign for them. At this time of year, in particular, thieves scour neighborhoods until they find UPS trucks making package deliveries. As soon as the truck leaves, a thief can casually head to the front porch and walk off with the packages.

Instead, have packages delivered to your place of work. Or at very least, if you’re not going to be home, ask a trusted neighbor to sign for the packages, and be sure to leave specific instructions for the delivery person.

Be careful when retrieving e-greeting cards

If you get an e-mail that supposedly is from Hallmark or American Greetings, don’t click on the link provided to retrieve the card. You could be inviting malware into your computer.

[General e-mail safety note: Don't click on any links in any e-mail unless you're positive it's from the person or organization claiming to send it. Always look carefully at the return e-mail address. If it's not exactly the same as your friend's e-mail address, or a retail store whose name is written exactly as it is on their own Website, odds are, it's a scam.]

The only safe way to pick up a legitimate e-card sent to you via Hallmark is to copy (don’t click on) the confirmation number. Then go to the actual Hallmark site and paste the confirmation number in the space provided.

The American Greetings e-card pick up link is at the bottom left of the home page  Paste your confirmation number in the space provided on the pop-up that appears.

See the best ways to avoid fraud when you donate to charities.

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Avoid fraud when you donate to charities this holiday season

Crook-behind-donate-jar‘Tis the season of holiday giving. Charities bring in at least 40% of their annual revenue between now and the end of the year.  In 2012, for example, Save the Children, one of the nation’s most respected charities, picked up almost 69% of its annual revenue in December.

Unfortunately, many of us who think we’re are making charitable donations are actually being defrauded of money that will never go to anyone but the thieves who have scammed us. In New York State, the Attorney General’s office reportedly reached a $700,000 settlement with Thrift Land USA of Yonkers. The fake charity distributed some 1,300 clothing bins in New York and Connecticut, ostensibly so people could donate used clothing to the needy. Instead, the company distributing the bins sold the donated clothing and kept some $10 million.

On the federal level, the scale of charity fraud is exponentially greater. According to a recent fraud case reported by, the Federal Trade Commission has accused the Breast Cancer Society, Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, and Children’s Cancer Fund of America, along with several of their executives, of bilking more than $187 million from consumers through deceptive fundraising pitches.

Help your money find the people it should help

Lots of sources offer detailed advice on how not to get scammed while donating to charities. One is called “Tips for Charitable Giving,” published by the NYS Attorney General’s Office. For a shortcut to looking up charities registered in New York, go to

Even better, go to the newly updated site Charity Navigator. The non-profit watchdog has easy-to-understand ratings that will show you, for example, how much the charity spends on programs for the people it serves and how much goes for salaries, administrative expenses, and fundraising. The new ratings for 2,090 charities can be found by clicking on the link in the right column.

Regardless of whether you do extensive research on charities or not, here are a few simple guidelines to avoid any chance of being scammed:

  • Stick with charities you know–Many scam artists come up with charity names that sound similar to those with which people are familiar. It’s easy to see how people could have been tricked into contributing to any of the fraudulent cancer charities mentioned above.
  • Go to the Website of any charities you wish to support, or mail a check to the verified address of the charity–Don’t go through any middlemen.
  • Don’t contribute over the phone–Even if the telemarketer on the other end is legitimate, why give away most of your donation to a for-profit company?  Warns the NYS Attorney General’s office, “[D]onors should know that less than half of the money they contribute through telemarketers is going to the charitable causes they seek to support.” Worse, the person at the other end of the phone may be trying to take advantage of your compassion and generosity, trying to convince you that it’s urgent that you send money right this minute. .
  • Never click on a link in a solicitation e-mail unless you know that you definitely gave that charity your e-mail address.– Even then, it’s safer to go to the charity’s Website to donate.
  • Don’t give cash, your credit card number, your Social Security number, or any financial information to door-to-door solicitors--Ask for printed material. Then, if you decide you want to contribute, go to the organization’s Website.

Unfortunately, scams involving charitable donations are only one type of fraud that’s more prevalent during the holiday season. In our next post, we’ll show you how to recognize and protect yourself from other types of fraud that pop up frequently at this time of year.

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When mail fraud kills

Danger-signOn September 21, 2015, Stewart Parnell, of Lynchburg, Virginia, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for having knowingly introduced mis-branded, salmonella-tainted peanuts and peanut products into interstate commerce.

The sentence was groundbreaking. It represented the toughest penalty ever handed down for a corporate executive in a food poisoning case.

Officially, the convictions of Parnell, his brother, Michael, and other executives of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), were mostly for mail fraud and wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to profit by introducing adulterated peanuts and peanut products into the food supply.

This particular consumer and business fraud resulted in more than 700 reported cases of salmonella poisoning. Nine of the victims died. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the actual number of cases of salmonella poisoning cases linked directly to PCA probably exceeded 22,000.

Why mail and wire fraud?

What many consumers may not know is that both mail fraud and wire fraud statutes are key tools in the ongoing battle to keep all of us from being victimized by fraud–or in this case, being sickened or killed.  In fact, “mail fraud” has been called the federal government’s “first line of defense” against fraud. Here are the key differences between them:

Mail fraud–Mail fraud involves participating in a scheme to obtain money or property by means of false pretenses (among other possible means)–in which the scheme is carried out by sending fraudulent materials via the U.S. Postal Service, or any private or commercial interstate carrier, such as FedEx, or UPS.

Parnell and other executives of the Peanut Corporation of America, fabricated certificates of analysis (COAs) that accompanied shipments of peanut products. They falsely stated that the food they were shipping was free of pathogens. In fact, there had been no testing of some of the peanut products. Worse, a number of lab tests had showed that salmonella pathogens were present. The  COAs accompanying the shipments had been falsified.

The mail fraud statute, in particular, has been broadened in recent years. You’re now likely to see “mail fraud” and “wire fraud” included among the charges and convictions in dozens of types of crimes. Here, from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, are 32 examples of common scams that fall under the heading of mail fraud.

Wire fraud–Wire fraud occurs when when the information used to deceive victims is communicated by phone, radio, TV, or the use of an e-mail server.

To cite just one of many examples of wire fraud committed in this case, Parnell received an e-mail from the plant manager that some of the peanut products about to be shipped to a customer were tainted. Parnell’s reply: “Just ship it.”

There’s no question that under the right circumstances, mail fraud or wire fraud can be used to mislead and steal from any of us.

Hopefully, now that Stewart Parnell and the others at PCA are going to jail, mail fraud involving food products that can poison or even kill us will be less common in the future.

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Don’t ignore warning signs of identity theft

Time-bombEach day, we hear new stories of large-scale data breaches that affect several thousand and sometimes many millions of people.

In addition to the risks of having had one’s private information compromised, there’s another risk facing many of us: developing a “So what?” attitude.

Since ID theft is so commonplace, many people may assume that corporations, healthcare, and financial institutions will take care of the problem. Translation: “I don’t have to worry about it.”

The reality is, you do. There isn’t a major corporation, government agency, healthcare company, or other large business that isn’t working hard to make their records more secure. However, in many cases, security is still largely a case of “whack-a-mole.” By the time holes in security are identified and plugged, new vulnerabilities have been found.

Moreover, by the time most data breaches are discovered, the bad guys have been in the computers for many months, or even a few years. That means that when a breach is announced, and if your information was compromised, your Social Security number, date of birth, address, employer’s name, and other personal information already could have been used by criminals.

Lurking in the shadows

Danger still exists even if you haven’t seen any evidence that you have been victimized. In the case of the recent IRS breach, for example, in which more than 100,000 taxpayers’ information was stolen, the data thieves broke into the IRS system via a feature called “Get Transcript.” They requested copies of previous tax documents, and then proceeded to file for more than $39 million in fraudulent refunds.

How did they get in? By using previously stolen identification.

Too little, too late

You’ve undoubtedly read that companies, government agencies, or other institutions usually pay for credit or identification monitoring for people who’ve been identified as victims of data breaches. However, for any one of us, that service could be similar to locking the barn after the horse is stolen.

Moreover, because so much attention is now focused on large-scale data breaches, we can easily lose sight of the fact that identity theft often occurs one victim at a time; it can happen when we take out money from an ATM or use a credit card in a restaurant.

We all need to be vigilant

Thieves don’t necessarily use stolen identity right away. So if someone has your ID, financial difficulties are always just around the corner. The sooner you spot and address any potential issues, the less likely you are to face costly and time-consuming problems down the road. Here are some key warning signs that you always need to follow up on immediately:

  • Missing or lost credit cards
  • Any transaction you don’t recognize on a bank or credit card statement
  • Questionable information on your credit report
  • Bills you don’t expect in the mail
  • Any credit denials you receive, especially if your credit is good

The IRS offers an excellent and comprehensive guide on identity theft and how to protect yourself. Also, be sure to check ways to keep your personal information out of the hands of people who commit fraud by e-mail; see our tips on how not to be victimized by fraudulent e-mails.

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Help Mom and Dad avoid becoming fraud victims

Elderly-couple-smiling-w-borderThink about giving your parents a gift that will be useful long after Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations have passed–one that can help ensure their future economic security. Speak with them about how to protect themselves from a far-too-common occurrence–
financial fraud targeted at seniors.

The unfortunate reality is that for various reasons, people over age 65 are especially vulnerable to financial crimes–most often committed by trusted relatives, and ironically, by their own children.

A 2014 study by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College found that almost 5% of seniors admit they’ve already been victims of embezzlement. Some have given or lent money to others under false pretenses. Victims also are defrauded by means of forgery, falsification of records, and coercion.

One common example of this type of financial crime is getting older relatives to sign over their homes, or cash in their investments and put the proceeds into a checking account–an account to which the fraudster has access.

How to help your parents protect their homes and money

The Better Business Bureau offers a number of tips that adult children of aging parents can use to help keep Mom and Dad from becoming fraud victims or falling for scams targeted mainly at older individuals. Here, based on the BBB advice, are some of the best:

  • Get involved with seniors’ financial decisions as much as possible, especially when you see any signs that managing their own personal finances has become a burden.
  • Warn your elderly parents to never give out personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers to someone who has called. Popular scams include promising information on some new arthritis cure or other health miracle product, soliciting a charitable donation, or confirming a sweepstakes prize.
  • No matter what your parents are buying, if any salesperson will not provide written information about his or her company–including the company’s name, address and telephone number, tell Dad or Mom to do business with someone else.
  • If someone calls from a “government agency” requesting money, or making threats if Mom or Dad doesn’t pay over the phone, tell your folks not to give them any information. Instead, they should ask for a certified letter on official letterhead.
  • Warn them about scam artists who develop relationships with older adults on the phone and eventually begin asking them for money or loans, or requesting that they sign up for something.
  • Tell your parents never to hire anyone who shows up at their door. If they are told their plumbing needs to be fixed, or the roof needs repair, or they need to get in on a low-priced deal on windows right away, odds are, it’s a scam. The scammer will ask for a deposit, or even “payment in advance,” and never show up again.
  • Tell your parents never to make any “on-the-spot” decision that involves money, regardless of pressure to act immediately. If someone says they have to take the offer right now, or they will miss the opportunity, advise them to say, “No thanks, but I’m not ready to buy.”  Legitimate companies don’t pressure people to act without giving them time to look into the product or service.
  • Warn your Dad and/or Mom  never to fall for any investment that promises high returns with no risk. A reputable advisor will always disclose details about risks, as well as information that the investor can check out before investing any money.

Also, give yourself a gift: Be sure to follow the same BBB-based advice that you give your folks. And check out all of the services we offer to help protect you as an individual or as a business owner. You want to keep your parents safe. But you don’t ever want to be a fraud victim, either.

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Small business owners’ greatest cybersecurity threat


When most people hear about businesses that have suffered data breaches and other cyber attacks, they assume that the company has been victimized by hackers from Eastern Europe or some other part of the world.

The truth: The hack was most likely committed by an unhappy employee.

Douglas Nadjari, a partner at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, a Uniondale law firm, recently participated in a data security panel hosted by the Long Island Association.

“Most breaches are . . . internal threats; we’re not talking about the Russians,” Nadjari said. “It is a disgruntled employee or an entrepreneurial employee, somebody who wants to take your data, your client list, your propriety information and they want to use it for themselves.”

As data breaches become more commonplace and costly, businesses need to be proactive about protecting themselves and planning what to do if and when they’re hacked.

Some key panel takeaways, according to the Newsday feature on the panel:

  • Assign employee roles and responsibilities should a hack occur
  • Find out how much damage has been done before you go public
  • Identify all stakeholders–e.g., employees, customers, vendors, legislators; assure all of them that data safety has been restored;
  • Provide for phone answering services to handle calls that may come in
  • Offer free credit monitoring services to customers or clients

Fraud comes in many forms, including embezzlement by trusted employees, managers, and advisors. Preventing it becomes more important every day. Please contact us to see how we can help you and/or your clients and your business.

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Why to tell the IRS if you’ve been a victim of identity theft


You may already be a victim of tax fraud due to identity theft. Or you may have had your identity stolen–but not been hit by tax fraud.

Either way, let the IRS know.  File form 14039

Has someone else already filed a return using your Social Security number? In Section A, check Box 1

You’ll know you’ve been hit by tax fraud if your e-filed return is rejected as a duplicate. Or if you  receive a mailed notice from the IRS stating that a return already has been filed using your Social Security number. Any “duplicate” return will be rejected by the IRS.

You still must file your 1040 and pay any taxes due. But your return must be submitted by paper, not electronically. Attach Form 14039. You’ll also be required to submit one of the following to verify your identity: a copy of your driver’s license, Social Security card, or passport.

You can’t have your own return accepted, or obtain any tax refund due until you submit the form and the required documentation.

Besides filing Form 14039, be sure to file a report with your local police precinct. And also notify the Federal Trade Commission.

Has your identity been stolen, but you don’t know if a fraudulent tax return has been filed? File form 14039, anyway. In Section A, check Box 2

If someone has already used your Social Security number to obtain credit falsely, file the form. If your wallet has been stolen, your house has been burglarized, or you suspect that your Social Security number may have been compromised during a computer hack, protect yourself. File form 14039, even if you don’t know of any crime that has been committed by using your ID.

If the IRS is aware of your identity theft, and a fake tax return is filed using your Social Security, it should be flagged before it is processed–which could save you a lot of aggravation.

Check out some more solid advice on identity theft from the IRS.

We’re noticing that identity theft has begun to show up in local police blotter features. Are you seeing reports in your newspaper?

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