RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced on Monday that identity thieves have been filing tax returns in the names of North Carolina consumers to steal their refunds.
Identity thieves have been using stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns, and consumers often don't know that they are victims until trying to file their tax returns. At that time, they learn from the Internal Revenue Service that someone has already filed for them and claimed their refund.
"ID thieves will use your personal information to open accounts in your name or even to steal your tax refund," Cooper said. "Guard your personal information carefully and check your credit report regularly to protect yourself."
Cooper's office has heard from as many as 15 victims of the identity theft scheme per week. In most cases, the IRS is able to straighten out the issue with the legitimate tax payers to allow them to claim their refunds.
Cooper recommended that consumers not fall for scammers who send emails claiming to come from the IRS. Scams attempting to take advantage of taxpayers are frequent leading up to the personal income tax filing deadline of April 15.
A phony e-mail reported to Cooper's office included an official looking IRS logo and claimed that the recipient owed a $10,000 penalty for failing to file an income tax return before Jan. 31. The message said that the penalty would be waived if the consumer entered his information on a website that could be visited from a link in the email. Other similar emails tells consumers that they are owed money by the IRS and that they can obtain the money by providing their bank account numbers. The legitimate IRS does not use e-mail to contact taxpayers.
"The IRS isn't going to email you for your personal information," Cooper said. "No matter how real these messages appear to be, don't take the bait."