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Internet crimes: identity theft increasing during tax season

'Tis the season for South Carolina residents to file their taxes. Tax season is also a popular time for identity thieves. Many scam artists are looking for ways to get a hold of Social Security numbers and file fake tax returns in order to receive multiple refunds. These Internet crimes can cause a mountain of problems for those who are affected.

Tax ID theft occurs when a person attempts to file his or her tax return, but it is rejected because someone else has already beaten them to it. Many people are unaware of tax ID theft, but it is quite common. Since October 2011, the IRS has investigated nearly 1,500 cases of tax fraud.

Typically, the drama doesn't end at tax returns. Identity thieves will assume someone else's identity and make it difficult for the victim to renew a driver's license, obtain a passport, apply for a job or credit card or even attend school.

With everyone assuming digital identities through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other types of social media, stealing an identity is easier than ever. Plus, scam artists are becoming savvy and bold.

Identity theft is a common crime. It results in billions of dollars in theft annually. It not only robs people of money, but time, privacy and peace of mind as well. It can be extremely difficult for someone to regain their identity after it has been compromised.

Even when a person is cautious and always takes the necessary steps to prevent exposure of credit cards, Social Security numbers and other personal information, identity theft can occur through security breaches at banks, hospitals and other places that have client information on file. Being vigilant and checking banking and credit card statements often is a good step in order to spot fraudulent charges early on. If it looks like an Internet fraud has been committed, it is important to get in contact with the appropriate people to begin investigation and even filing a suit.

Being a victim of an identity thief can be emotional complicated. It is important to understand the process to regain your identity and remedy the situation. It is also crucial to understand the steps to help prevent this crime from being committed.

Source: Courier-Journal.com, "Watch out: Tax time is prime time for I.D. theft," Christine Dugas, April 2, 2013

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