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How to avoid tax refund identity fraud

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Many people file their income tax returns as early in the year as possible. Some are eager to claim their tax refund right away, while others are simply following their New Year’s resolution not to procrastinate until midnight, April 15.
Let me add another good reason to file your taxes right away: tax refund identity fraud.
That’s where someone uses your Social Security number (SSN), birth date and other private information to file a fraudulent income tax return in your name and then pockets the resulting tax refund.
Often, a victim’s first clue is a letter from the IRS contesting their legitimate tax return, saying one has already been processed under that name. It can take months — and mounds of paperwork — to unravel the mess.
This scam has proliferated in recent years thanks to a confluence of events:
There’s a thriving black market in personal information stolen from healthcare facilities, nursing homes, schools, insurance companies and other institutions that require an SSN as identification.