Tax Fraud, Identity Theft, and other horrors of life

I’ve been working tirelessly, typing my fingers to the bone, catching up on Quicken so that I can have all of my decimals in place for our accountant to file the taxes.  Which in reality will read something like War and Peace, since we are self employed with no fewer than 3 businesses.

Back before Quicken, it was just me, a box of finely sharpened #2 pencils, an 8 column ledger book, and my trusty Casio calculator.  Paperwork and dealing with numbers is an unexpected gift that I was blessed with.  I’ve always been very good and keeping track of business.  It didn’t hurt that as a struggling artist for most of my life, it was never really hard to keep track of $25.32.

Still.  I’ve always been fastidious with receipts and tax preparation.  My accountant in Los Angeles offered me a job every single year that I showed up on his accounting doorstep in late March.

After we married, Fiddledaddy gladly handed over the job of banker in our life game of Monopoly.  Although he did insist that I dispense with the ledger book and #2 pencils and join the 20th century and accompanying technology.  I fought kicking and screaming, but this is when Quicken entered my life.

For the first couple of years I did keep a backup ledger.  Just in case, you know, this whole computer craze did not last.

Sometimes life gets a little crazy, and I’m further behind in Quicken than I’d like to be.  Eight months to be exact.  But in mid-March, I finally had everything caught up to the end of 2011, and my bleary eyes were cast on the looming tax deadline.

About this time I wandered out to the mailbox and retrieved a letter from the I.R.S.  There’s just something that causes a sphincter contraction when you see the letters I.R.S. up in the top left hand corner of an envelope.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I ripped open the envelope and headed toward Fiddledaddy’s office.  Because misery loves company.  I began reading about how the I.R.S. was in receipt of our return and was conducting a thorough review.

This was interesting since WE HAD NOT FILED OUR RETURN YET.  In fact, I was scheduled to meet with our accountant the next morning to deliver all of my data so she could file.

Fiddledaddy contacted the I.R.S. while I stood close by wringing my hands.  And whimpering.  Because I’m always a strong and steady presence in the face of adversity.

It seems that someone did indeed file a tax return in my husband’s name, even using his social security number.  We finally noticed on the letter from the I.R.S. that our last name was slightly misspelled, and the address was off by 3 numbers.

But the social security number was spot on.

We were told to file a Fraud Alert form with our real tax return, along with proof of identity.  Then we called Experian because thankfully, we have identity theft insurance through Zander Insurance.  Sadly, there is only so much they can do when dealing with the government, but they walked us through all of the steps that we needed to take to ensure that our credit was not compromised.

This was not difficult because we are of the ilk of the kind of people that stay out of debt.  Thank you, Dave Ramsey.

Likely the way this works is that the nefarious criminal files a return that will result in a hefty refund, which he/she requests to be wired to their bank of choice.

What is going to happen now is that the U.S. government will be conducting an investigation which will take likely no fewer than NINE MONTHS of our lives.  And then, and only then, will they be able to process our real tax return.  Which should (fingers and eyes crossed) result in a refund, which we likely won’t see until IT’S TIME TO FILE AGAIN NEXT YEAR.  Or I’m old and grey.

Which means I’m going to have to live with the cheap linoleum and buckling grey dust mite infested carpet for another year while I wait to complete Phase 2 and Phase 3 of our flooring issues.

But I’m not bitter.

It coulda’ been worse.

I have no idea how this happened, but as I’m tuning in to plentiful news reports of fraud, it’s fairly easy to procure a social security number by paying a service $9 for an extensive report on anyone’s identity.  The age of technology.  I knew there would be a catch.

I’ve also heard that drug dealers are getting out of the drug dealing business and going into identity theft because IT’S SO MUCH MORE LUCRATIVE.

All this to say, be diligent about your credit and bank statements.  I highly recommend Identity Theft Insurance as well.  It gives me great peace of mind to know that we have someone walking us through this process.

Our accountant knows not to file our return electronically, and I will have to send it certified, return receipt requested, stamped with hearts and kisses, from our local post office.

This is all an inconvenience and makes me mad as a hornet at people who steal.  The lesson I take away is to be constantly vigilant about our personal information.

March 26, 2012

5 Responses to Tax Fraud, Identity Theft, and other horrors of life

  • So glad you were able to catch this before they got your money and spend it creating credit that you will have to pay for. Good for you.

  • OUCH!

    The worst we’ve had is someone tapping into our credit card account, but they didn’t realize that we use our credit card for EVERYTHING (no debt, though), so while they were happily purchasing odds and ends in Mexico we were at home doing exactly the same thing. . .Now we have to call our credit card company in advance of us traveling anywhere to okay our purchases.

  • Praise God the IRS decided to hold onto the tax return and alerted you. Like you I have the same reaction to anything stamped IRS, but this was a blessing in disguise. 😉

    You give many great suggestions. If up you don’t mind I would like to add one more; invest in a really good shredder and shred EVERYTHING. If it has your name and address on it shred it. Period.

  • SOOOO sorry to hear about this!! You have our sympathies. My first activity at Ft Carson (south of town) was leading Dave’s Financial Peace U for soldiers after Michelle and I went through it ourselves. Great stuff, and we’re also w/Zander. We’re in LA for Spring Break–wish you all were here!

  • UGH. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this! We’ve had our credit card number stolen twice (both times resolved pretty quickly) – and I wonder how in the world we could prevent it from happening again.