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Create your IRS Account Before Hackers Do it For You

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Before you do anything else, if you don't already have an online account with the IRS, go here and do it.  It'll only take a couple minutes.  Then, when you're done, come back here and find out why you needed to do it.

Have you created that account yet?  If not, really, go do it.  If you did, here's why you'll be glad you did.

As we reported a few weeks ago, hackers are pocketing peoples' income tax returns. Now imagine that you've filled out your return and discovered that you're one of the victims of this fraud.  You call the IRS identity theft hotline at 800-908-4490 to alert them to this, but you can't get much information from them due to privacy concerns.  You then go online to get a transcript of the return, you can't, because someone else already signed up with your Social Security number, but the email address is not yours!

What's happened?  The hacker who is already stealing your money has also already claimed your IRS account.  At this point you're unable to get any real information about your transaction unless you fill out Form 4056 and pay $50 for the IRS to mail the transcript to you.

The transcript will include information such as the bank name, account number and amount of the deposit, but you still won't get much help from the IRS.  Even though banks are required to report suspicious activity, the IRS is apparently not required to alert banks of the same.

All of this recently happened to Michael Kasper, but the story doesn't end there.  After contacting the bank to which the refund was sent and the local police, an investigator discovered that the bank account was owned by a woman who had responded to the old Nigerian money scam.  You know, the one where someone offers you money to collect and process money for them?  In Kasper's case, the woman had responded to a Craigslist ad calling itself a moneymaking opportunity.  Yes, apparently people still fall for that.

So, if you still haven't done it, go sign up for an online IRS account before a criminal does.  It might not keep identity theft from happening, but it will make it a lot easier to fix it if you do.