OAK RIDGE, N.J. — Feb. 21, 2017— As Americans begin the process of filing tax returns, identity thieves are scheming to get their hands on that money. Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission for the past five years. Lakeland Bank is using the tax season to raise consumer awareness and provide tips to prevent tax ID fraud.
“Identity thieves look for every opportunity to steal your information, especially during tax season,” said Ron Schwarz, Chief Operating Officer. “Consumers should be on high alert and take every step they can to protect their personal and financial information.”
Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim the refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year and victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.
To help consumers prevent tax ID fraud, Lakeland is offering the following tips:
- File early. Filing your tax return early gives criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
- Use a protected wi-fi network. If you use an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a wi-fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
- Use a secure mailbox. If you file by mail, drop your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your home mailbox. Some criminals look for tax return forms in mailboxes during tax season.
- Find a tax preparer you trust. If you plan to hire someone to do your taxes, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
- Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
- Beware of phishing scams by email, text or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
- Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.
If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. In addition, you should:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
- Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 1-800-525-6285
- Experian, www.Experian.com, 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 1-800-680-7289
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
About Lakeland Bank
Lakeland Bank is the wholly-owned subsidiary of Lakeland Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:LBAI), which has $5.1 billion in total assets. The Bank operates 52 New Jersey branch offices in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Union counties; six New Jersey regional commercial lending centers in Bernardsville, Jackson, Montville, Newton, Teaneck and Waldwick; and two commercial loan production offices serving Middlesex and Monmouth counties in New Jersey and the Hudson Valley region of New York. Lakeland Bank offers an extensive suite of financial products and services for businesses and consumers. Visit LakelandBank.com for more information.