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Posted: 1:56 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#1 Key To Preventing Tax Identity Theft

By Clark Howard

Are you worried about tax identity crooks taking away your return? Here's the best way to outsmart them...

How to beat the tax return ID thieves at their own game

During the last few years, crooks have been stealing people's Social Security numbers and then filing false returns as though they were those people. The crooks typically claim low income and high deductions and file electronically. Then when you go to legitimately file your return, it's rejected by the IRS because somebody else already filed as you!

The whole mess typically takes about 10-14 months to straighten out if you're on the receiving end of the scam.

For that reason, I've advised callers to make sure they owe the IRS rather than the other way around. In other words, reduce your withholding at work. That way you're not waiting around for money you can't get your hands on. (It's too late to do it for this current tax season, but it will help you come next year at tax time.)

Fortunately, the IRS has now trained almost half of their employees to spot identity theft and maybe prevent some of it. They have had to dedicate thousands of employees specifically to the task of help victims of identity theft.

The number of false returns filed last year was 15 million, and those are just the ones they stopped. The best guesstimate is that more than $6 billion has been stolen from the IRS and that impacts all of us federal taxpayers. Florida and Georgia in particular have been very hard hit.

All taxpayers in Georgia, Florida and the District of Columbia are eligible for an Identity Protection PIN that will protect them from tax related ID theft, according the IRS. To opt into the program visit

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