Avoiding tax fraud

(CNN) - Target continues to sort through the fallout from a massive data breach that impacted of millions of customers.  The hack took place at the height of holiday shopping. But now, we are about to navigate another tricky period for keeping personal information safe- tax time.


First Target's holiday season data breach, snaring as many as 110 million shoppers. Then, Neiman Marcus confirmed it was the target of cybercrime involving customers' credit cards.
Now, it's another Christmas of sorts for hackers, tax time.

The Federal Trade Commission says tax-related complaints made up 43% of identity theft complaints in 2012.

Tim Rorbaugh of identity theft prevention firm, Intersections, says even one piece of stolen information, can be useful to a cybercrook.

"They're taking a piece of our data elements, and creating a new identity. And so when that new identity is used to open an account, it's not necessarily going to be flagged to you immediately."

When information isn't tied to one person or address, identity theft is more difficult to detect.
Potential tip-offs to tax-related scams include --
-- Receiving a W-2 from an unknown employer.
-- A mysterious balance due or even a refund owed.
-- Claims of unreported income. Thieves use a stolen social security number to report income they earned, and send the  tax bill elsewhere.
-- Or an IRS letter stating more than one return has been filed in your name. It seems scammers, like to file early.

"They'll file in your identity, early, they'll get the refund, and you won't know about it until you file later, or file on April 15th."

While heightened awareness is important during tax time or when a major breach takes place, you always want to make sure you stay vigilant year-round.



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