Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance urging citizens to protect their identities
TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance is urging citizens to take steps to protect their identities during the holiday shopping season and as tax season approaches.
“People are at greater risk of identity theft during the holiday season and as we get close to tax season,” said FDLE Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center Special Agent in Charge Rick Ramirez. “So this is a good time to review tips on keeping your identity safe.”
Teams of law enforcement officers conducted dozens of interviews today after receiving tips that individuals may be engaged in stolen identity tax refund fraud. The interviews could be used to build cases against those stealing identities and using the information to submit fraudulent tax returns for the purpose of collecting refunds.
“Through our partners within the Tampa Alliance, the outreach conducted today is similar in nature to community policing,” said James Robnett, Special Agent in Charge of Tampa IRS-Criminal Investigation. “It is through these close contacts with the community that the taxpaying citizens will have confidence that the IRS and its Alliance partners are aggressively pursuing any lead related to stolen identity refund fraud.”
The Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance was formed in July 2012 and is comprised of FDLE agents, federal agents, and county and city law enforcement officers located in the Tampa region. The goal of this specialized team is to investigate identity theft crimes and pinpoint vulnerabilities in personal and business transactions.
“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in our nation and a consumer’s worst nightmare. As we approach tax season, it is anticipated that a significant number of Americans will be victims of tax refund fraud. Identity theft threatens the financial security of our citizens and we must minimize the risk by individually protecting our personal information. The Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance will continue to focus its collective efforts to combat this serious crime problem and pursue those engaged in this illicit activity,” said FBI Tampa Field Office Special Agent in Charge Steven E. Ibison.
“We want the criminals committing this type of theft to know we are watching them closely,” said David Gee, Hillsborough County Sheriff. “But we also want to educate our citizens about the steps they can take to protect themselves.”
“We are taking steps in the right direction to stop identity theft and tax fraud,” said Tampa Police Department Chief Jane Castor. “We will continue to work together until this crime stops.”
Five simple steps to protect your identity:
· Do not throw away ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statements without first shredding them.
· Never give out personal information online simply because someone asks for it.
· Never give your credit card number or social security number over the telephone unless you initiated the call.
· Reconcile your bank account monthly and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.
· Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year.
What to do if you are a victim:
· Flag your credit reports. Contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
· File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).
· File a report with the local police.
· If you received a notice from the IRS, call the number on that notice.
· Fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.
· Call IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit 1-800-908-4490 if you think you are at risk due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet.
For additional tips on how to protect your identity, visit www.secureflorida.org or www.irs.gov/identitytheft or www.ftc.gov/idtheft
If you have information about fraudulent activity contact Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-8477.
For Further Information Contact:
Gretl Plessinger, Keith Kameg or Steve Arthur
FDLE Office of Public Information