Monday, March 16, 2015

Tax Time, Scam Time: Thieves Steal Billions Using Taxpayer Identities.

I know. They stole my identity.

Using Turbo Tax, a leading tax service with millions of customers, thieves filed federal and Massachusetts tax returns under the name of George Pollock -- me -- with my address, social security number, email, and replicating details from my 2013 tax return. 

How did I find out?  Easy.  One day when I was just beginning to think about getting my taxes done, I got an e-mail from Turbo Tax thanking me for using them to file my taxes. OMG! I'm being scammed! I went immediately into panic mode.

I called Turbo Tax. I tried and tried and tried but couldn't get a human being. I replied to their e-mail saying that I "did not file with Turbo Tax and that I am a victim of identity theft and fraud." I demanded that they immediately step in to stop the scam or "you will hear from my attorney."

I got no reply and still have not.

I notified my longtime tax preparer. Fully understanding the seriousness, he urged me to get my tax info to him as fast as possible and he would give it top priority. Working nonstop for two days, hardly sleeping, I got my tax return info together and sent it priority to him. Amazingly, he got it filed, Massachusetts and federal, practically in hours.

I called the IRS and got a recording saying they are too busy during tax season to accept calls.  I started filling out an IRS form reporting the scam but found it very long and complicated. It also asked for personal and tax info that made me nervous putting online. I didn't do it.

I called the Federal Trade Commission and, to my great surprise and relief, got a human being.  It was a no-nonsense woman who patiently and professionally took all the necessary information.  She said that all appropriate state and federal agencies would be alerted. At her suggestion, I also placed a credit freeze on my credit card and and a fraud alert with credit reporting companies.

She also said that it's a good idea to alert local officials and that the best way to do that was through the police department.  So I went down to the Worcester police department and reported the scam.  I was told that an officer would come to our home the next day to take my info.

Sure enough, the next morning  a police cruiser pulled up in front of our home.  A uniformed officer got out, walked up to our front door, and rang the bell.  I opened the door and let him in.  As I did, I imagined  the word sure to go around the close-knit neighborhood:

The old nutcake is in trouble with the cops.  Anyone know what he did?

I led the officer downstairs to my office, which I call my mancave, where he took my information, writing it all down.  He was friendly, easy to talk to, and spoke with a strong Spanish accent.

When he was finished and we began walking out, I put my hand on his shoulder. With a serious face, I said, "You're not an illegal immigrant, I hope?"

We locked eyes. Seeing right through me, the officer smiled. "No."

 "Oh good, I don't have to report you."

The officer chuckled.  I saw him out the front door with a "Thank you officer" and firm handshake. 

Feeling that I had done all that I could, I was able to relax -- until a few days later I received the following email from Turbo Tax:


Where's My Refund? How to Check Your Refund Status
Now that you've filed your tax return, you may be
wondering, "Where's My Refund?" Learn what
happens after you e-file your tax return and
how to check the status of your refund.
Find out more

I shot Turbo Tax the following:

NOTICE: I have NOT filed an income tax form through Turbo Tax!  Any form you have using my name, address,  social security number, and e-mail address is identity theft and fraud.  I notified you of this when I got the first notice from Turbo Tax.  I have now notified local and state authorities and am filing a fraud report with the IRS.  Meanwhile my legitimate state and federal forms are now being filed by my legitimate income tax provider.  A reply would be professional and appreciated.

I got no reply from Turbo Tax.  Again, I tried to talk to a human being at the company.  Couldn't.

A week or so later, the next email from Turbo Tax was this:

Dear george pollock,

Your Tax Return Status: Federal Return Rejected

We want to make sure you file your taxes on time.
Earlier this year, your tax return was rejected, and we've noticed you haven't re-filed it yet.
A rejected return means the return has not been filed with the government. If you've already fixed your return, re-filed and been accepted, or filed by mail, you can ignore this notice.
If you have not fixed your rejected return, you have only until April 20, 2015 to fix and e-file it again.

intuit(R) TurboTax(R)


This was great news.  The scammer's return in my name had been rejected! Yippee! 

Then I got an email from my tax preparer telling me that my Massachusetts and Federal returns had been accepted.

Then I quickly got substantial Massachusetts and Federal tax refunds. The checks are deposited.

Sorry scammers.  You lost!

So long and keep moving.

For More Info

Thousands of other taxpayers won't be so lucky.  With millions of taxpayers working to submit their returns before the April 15 deadline, the IRS is seeing many cases of identity theft and fraud, according to Timothy Camus, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Based on my own experience, if you find yourself the victim of identity fraud, you should contact a human being at the Federal Trade Commission, place a fraud alert with credit reporting companies, and place a credit freeze on your credit card. The FTC website will guide you.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R. Utah, Secretary Camus said that the IRS has identified more than 517,000 suspicious returns and blocked $3.1 billion in fraudulent returns, including some from overseas perpetrators. Sen. Hatch said that the scammers got away with $5.8 billion in 2013, which was a 37% increase in one year. It could be more for 2014 said Sen. Hatch, which was why he was holding hearings on the issue and what can be done.

Narrowly avoiding being an identity theft victim, myself, I watched and listened to every word of the hearings on CNN. I  videoed key testimony by Timothy Camus, below, and also by John Valentine, Utah Tax Commissioner.  You can watch these these short videos on  You Tube.

  
 NOTE:  Read my latest novel, Something Tells Her, for FREE on Kindle Unlimited. Go to Amazon. 



Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring,  and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, she runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive? 

Other E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Something Tells Her" is the story of a 12 year old foster girl who runs away from her latest abusive foster home.  How on earth is she going to survive? Well, she has ... something. What?

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