Tax filing can be confusing and frustrating for most of us. Even criminals.
Take the crook who stole Seth Rouse's personal information and filed fake federal and state tax returns in the legitimate Chicago taxpayer's name.
The felonious filer, however, made a big mistake. He didn't change the address to which the fraudulent refund was to be sent.
Click the bad refund check image to see the Chicago CBS affiliate's story on the tax identity theft screw-up.
So instead of going to the fraudster, the $5,571 check showed up at Rouse's home.
The federal refund arrived just a day after Rouse discovered his identity had been stolen for nefarious tax purposes.
No word yet on whether the confused crook made the same error on Rouse's fake Illinois filing.
Dealing with a stolen identity: The identity thief's ineptitude saved Uncle Sam a nice chunk of change. Rouse, however, still has to refile his returns under the federal and state identity theft recovery protocols.
In case you find yourself in similar unfortunate circumstances, the Federal Trade Commission suggests you:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only have to ask one of the three with the three credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian or TransUnion -- to take action. The agency you call must tell the other two companies. An initial fraud alert, which lasts for 90 days but can be renewed, can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name.
- Order your credit reports. You're entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. Be sure to ask the company to show only the last four digits of your Social Security number on your report. If you discover accounts that have been tampered with, contact the related businesses. Talk to someone in the fraud department, and follow up in writing. To create a record of your communications, send your letters by certified mail and ask for a return receipt.
- Create an identity theft report. Start by filing a complaint with the FTC and printing your Identity Theft Affidavit. Use that to file a police report. The resulting identity theft report will help you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors, and businesses that gave the identity thief credit or opened new accounts in your name.
Tell the IRS, too: Now to the tax specifics of identity theft. The Internal Revenue Service has a special group, the Identity Protection Specialized Unit or IPSU, to help taxpayers whose IDs have been used to file fake refunds.
Call IPSU toll-free at 1-800-908-4490.
You'll also need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.
Also check out the IRS' identity theft Web page. It has links to other information, both within the agency and outside resources, about coping with identity theft.
And don't forget about your state taxes. Contact your state tax department about what steps you need to take to get any fake filing corrected.
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