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The importance of protecting your identity during tax season

As we roll into tax season I always like to remind people about the importance of protecting your identity.  Every year that I write this article I come to learn that more and more people have fell victim to some sort of identity theft.  As some of you may recall, my identity was stolen back in 2010 and I had no idea until I went to file my tax return in April 2011.  I remember my accountant calling me when she went to file my tax return and informing me that she could not because a tax return had already been filed under my social security number.  We both immediately knew that something was very wrong and later discovered that there was a fraudulent tax return filed under my social security number. Somehow, the thief obtained my social security number, produced a fake W2 form, entered a local H&R Block and filed a tax return. He then elected to get a refund on the spot and walked out with a thousand dollar cash refund before I, H&R Block or the IRS had any idea what had happened.  It was extremely upsetting to think that someone had access to my personal information and I was concerned about my credit cards, bank accounts, etc. I later learned that this was a very common occurrence.  In order to file a fraudulent tax return, the thief only needs your social security number and a fake ID.  Due to a lack of appropriate screening and security measures, this is a pretty easy scam to pull off.  Here is some good information posted on the IRS website concerning identity theft:

Know the warning signs

Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive an IRS notice or letter that states that:

  • More than one tax return was filed using your SSN;
  • You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return;
  • IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

Steps to take if you become a victim

  • File a report with the local police.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov or the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
  • Contact one of 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

  • Close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.

 

What kind of an impact does this have on your ability to purchase or refinance your home mortgage? When you apply for any sort of mortgage loan, the bank or lender pulls a tax transcript (4506) from the IRS to verify that you filed your return and that your income is accurate.  If the tax transcript comes back with any discrepancies as a result of identity theft then this will obviously have to be corrected before your mortgage loan can be completed.  The good news is that over the years we have discovered a way to overcome any delays regarding the mortgage process.  An identity theft victim who is in the process of obtaining a mortgage loan can go into a local IRS office and have their actual tax return stamped and signed by an IRS agent.  That agent should also be able to provide them with a print out of their wage and income statement which a bank or lender should accept to complete the loan process.  There are still numerous steps that a person should take in order to address the issue of identity theft but at least there is a solution to obtaining a mortgage loan.  I have done numerous loans over the past four years, including a few in Sunset Lakes, for clients who were victims of this type of identity theft. Fortunately, we were able to get all of their loans closed in a timely manner in spite of the issue. In addition, there are some safety guards you can put into place to prevent this from happening to you, such as Life Lock , which I personally subscribed to after my incident. I encourage everyone to take the proper steps to protect their identity and make sure you protect your social security number and other personal information. If you have any questions about this issue please don’t hesitate to contact me. To learn more about our company and mortgage products, please feel free to call Dan Longman, President of Priority Lending Corp, at 954-438-3776 ext.11 or email me at prioritydan@bellsouth.net. Visit us online at www.prioritylendingcorp.com 

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