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Tax fraud: ‘Tis the season …’

Not to be jolly, but to be increasingly careful because TAX REFUND FRAUD is big business for identity theft fraudsters.

These particular crooks are very creative — they love hacking into online accounts, making changes (e.g. their mail drop address becomes your address), submitting bogus insurance claims, getting loans or new credit lines based on your good credit and filing YOUR taxes supported by phony documentation.

Tax fraud is both easy and low risk; cash the check and run.

Never delude yourself that you have been singled out — these fraudsters will target dozens, hundreds or thousands of victims. Easy, cheesy, Sneezy!

All they need is a social security number. Not only is your legitimate refund money gone, but it will take you time and immense frustration to get the mess straightened out.

If you are elderly, sometimes don’t file a return, reside in a nursing home, are low income, a student, or essentially homeless, your risk increases.

But the top of the totem pole also gets routinely hit. One now-behind-bars fraudster made the mistake of stealing the identity of Attorney General Eric Holder — obviously not the smartest choice.

Some crooks work alone, but organized crime cartels are more and more often entering this lucrative business. They do their business online and have organizational “ringleaders,” “sources” to steal the information by hacking into systems, file return “preparers” and then the “runners” who chase down the refund checks.

It’s huge business — the Wall Street Journal reported that the IRS found nearly 580,000 returns claiming $3.6 billion in fraudulent refunds in the 2013 filing season.

Protecting Yourself

1. Limit your ID theft exposure by protecting your personal information, regularly checking your credit report, not sharing your SSN or even carrying around your card, shredding rather than trash-canning, and protecting your personal computer with fire walls and anti-virus software.

2. Understand that the IRS will NOT email you (those are scams!), attach links to open (traps!), and they’ll never ask for your PINS or credit card information by phone, text or email. stay away from unprotected public hot spots if you are accessing sensitive information on your computer, always log out, use difficult passwords (not “1234” or “password”), let your children use a separate computer (never one that has your personal/sensitive data on it), look for the padlock for all monetary transactions and, most of all, “If it looks too good to be true — DO NOT PARTICIPATE!”

Crooks never say, “Hey, don’t mess with Charlie. He’s a NICE PERSON.” Crooks see you, your mother, your child, your pastor, your doctor, your neighbor as fair game. Sadly, the days of being safe and feeling secure are long gone.

Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.

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