As suspected identity theft and fraudulent personal income tax claims in other states gain attention, Acting Secretary of Revenue Eileen McNulty assured residents Friday the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is working vigilantly to ensure personal income tax refunds are paid to their rightful owners.
"Identity theft and fraudulent refund claims are issues we take very seriously, and we have processes and systems in place to detect and suspend suspicious refund claims," said McNulty. "We have no reason to believe at this point that fraudulent claims have been paid in Pennsylvania."
"Given the most recent and still unfolding developments regarding fraudulent refund claims across the country, we're gathering information about how the criminals are stealing identities and claiming refunds in others' names to ensure our preventative security measures will detect these suspicious claims."
Last year the department instituted additional security measures to identify and intercept fraudulent refund filings and require additional identity validation steps before issuing refunds. In light of an emerging increase in suspicious filings in other states, the department is taking the following actions:
It will delay the payment of direct deposit refunds temporarily, while the potential impact of the situation in Pennsylvania is assessed.
Additional refund evaluation criteria are being built into the department's identity validation program based on elements common among cases confirmed as fraud in other states.
To facilitate diagnosis of fraud techniques currently in use, the department is participating in an information share among U.S. taxing agencies and Intuit, the company whose product has been used to transmit the recent fraudulent refund claims.
"We continue to improve our filters as we learn more about the ways criminals perpetrate identity fraud, and we are successfully catching suspicious returns," said McNulty. "As we continue to vigilantly fight personal income tax refund fraud, we encourage taxpayers to protect their identities by guarding personal information and reporting any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities."
The department encourages taxpayers who used Internet-based tax filing programs last year to access their online accounts and determine whether returns they did not file are shown as filed under their Social Security numbers.
If a taxpayer discovers he or she is a victim of identity theft impacting a Pennsylvania tax return, he or she should take all of the following steps:
-- Report the incident to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue at 717-787-8201.
-- Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission or by calling 1-877-438-4338.
-- File a report with the local police.
-- Report the incident to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-441-2555.
-- File an Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039) with the Internal Revenue Service.
-- Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, 1-800-525-6285; Experian, 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion, 1-800-680-7289
-- Close any accounts that have been affected.-- If a taxpayer suspects a notice or call concerning tax records is a scam, he or she may call the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (717-787-8201) or IRS (1-800-829-1040) to validate the contact.