Millions of Americans could be affected by having incometax
refunds stolen. Would credit freezes or alerts help?
Identity theft is a real and growing risk for taxpayers. A fraudster could file a fradulent taxreturn
in your name, meaning the person could steal your refund. Although tax payers usually get their
money back, it could take 6 months or more to get it back. It’s best to avoid this terrible scenario
in the first place.
A credit freeze could be a good defensive measure. This will restrict access to your credit
reports, so only do this if you don’t plan to apply for credit anytime soon. Lenders will typically
not issue a loan without having access to your credit report. A credit freeze can cost $10 to $15
depending on where you live and what your situation is.
This makes it harder for identity theft to happen because thieves are unable to open new financial
accounts in your name. A credit freeze can be placed by contacting the three main credit bureaus.
They are: Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and TransUnion (1-888-909-8872).
For alerts, go to Equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance,
Experian.com/fraudalert and TransUnion.com/fraud.
A bit of digging is also recommended, as well as checking your credit report quite often. Because
no credit is involved in deposit accounts, they will not show up on your credit report. But other
problems may show up, which may indicate the possibility of identity theft. Get a free report on
annualcreditreport.com, from the three credit bureaus, or by calling 18773228228.
Credit freezes will not stop all fraudulent activity, and may have to be lifted if you need to apply
for credit. Each lift may be subject to a fee. The fees and effort involved hinder people from
placing freezes. However, remember that if an identity thief steals your tax refund, they probably
have your Social Security number too. A credit freeze could prevent more damage.
In the case of a stolen refund, the IRS automatically freezes the return filed by the return later
filed by the legitimate taxpayer. The IRS stopped 1.56 million returns in the last filing season,
but more than one third of stopped returns came from legitimate filers.
Under Arizona law, consumers can request a security freeze on their own credit reports and
credit scores, and temporarily or permanently lift those freezes when they want. Additionally,
Arizona law requires credit reporting agencies to respond within 10 business days of receiving a
written request to lift or remove a freeze. A security freeze will not restrict third party
access to a person’s credit report in all cases. For example, government agencies may access reports if
seeking child support payments or overdue taxes.
According to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, requests to place freezes must be done in
writing, using certified mail, to each of the three main credit bureaus at the following addresses:
Equifax Security Freeze
PO Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Trans Union Security Freeze