It's been one year since I was asked to meet with Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, along with the CEOs of H&R Block and Intuit. This is the first time these four titles have gotten together--in the same room--in the history of our industry. Lew has said our entire federal code needs to be overhauled, and this meeting centered on communications and tax fraud.
In June, the same CEOs met with the IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, and various state tax authorities to implement specific and actionable strategies to combat tax refund identity theft fraud, beginning with the 2016-tax season.
In a Memorandum of Understanding, we committed to developing taxpayer authentication protocols, providing data to the IRS to help identify fraud, and continuing discussion of information sharing initiatives. Together, industry leaders, the IRS and the Treasury Department are launching an attack against scams to steal your identity and your money.
This effort is just the beginning. We anticipate working with additional tax agencies and our colleagues in the industry to address other kinds of tax fraud, as well. Here is a copy of the 2015 Security Summit Report, which describes the initiatives included in the Memorandum of Understanding, as well as other proposals and legislative recommendations.
While these efforts show progress, it's important for you to take action now to protect yourself. Fraud prevention begins with the consumer doing self-checks on their identity and credit checks to make sure their identity hasn't been stolen.
"Scams can be sophisticated and take many forms. We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues," according to IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen. "Keep your personal information safe and secure. Taxpayers should protect their computers and only give out their Social Security numbers when absolutely necessary."
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. As a result of aggressive efforts to combat identity theft from 2011 through October 2014, the IRS has stopped 19 million suspicious returns and protected over $63 billion in fraudulent refunds.
In an effort to help victims, the IRS has issued millions of Identity Protection PINs (IP PINs.) The IP PIN is a unique, six-digit number that is assigned annually to victims of identity theft with resolved cases for use when filing their federal tax return.
This will allow these individuals to avoid delays in filing returns and receiving refunds. Additionally, the IRS offers the following tips as ways to protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Don't carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- Don't give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
- Monitor your financial information regularly, including your credit report. You can get a free report yearly at www.annualcreditreport.com and several financial services now offer free monitoring at any time.
- Review your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.
- Secure any personal information kept in your home.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don't give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know whom you are dealing with.
If you suspect you've been a victim of id theft or For more information, see the special identity theft section on IRS.gov, as well as IRS Fact Sheet 2015-1, IRS Combats Identity Theft and Refund Fraud on Many Fronts, and IRS Fact Sheet 2015-2, Identity Theft Information for Taxpayers and Victims.
Your education is the first measure of defense in protecting yourself and your family.