Caveat Emptor

Part II of II

Yes, little one, once upon a time my mom really did drive me to the public library so I could utilize the Dewey Decimal System to find books to research my history project. (Wikipedia. Really?) Oh, and my dad went to the AAA office and had them map out the roads for our summer vacation to visit my aunts in California. (Google Maps? Pshaw!) Heck, it wasn’t that long ago, I did my income taxes by hand, carefully writing each number on the correct line and calculating the amount due by reading the IRS tables and using my TI calculator. (TurboTax? Why I never!)

Then the world got easier. Check-in for your flight? There’s an app for that. Buy a stock? Click ‘Confirm Trade’. Grandkids live in another state? Facetime. The past quarter century may have been the fastest advance in civilization… Ever. This new wireless planet rewired all of us to approach life differently. Of course, with the good comes the bad – and these days the bad guys are lurking right inside your screen.

For the second year in a row, somebody stole my confidential information and filed a false tax return under my name. Last year we found out on April 14, when our CPA pushed Send and received a ‘We already have your return’ message. About 90 days ago, the IRS mailed us a letter asking for more information about our 2015 return. Since we hadn’t even met with our accountant, I knew right away it happened again.

Being self-employed and making quarterly estimates, we try to hit the taxes due number spot on, so there is never a refund. However, as a concerned citizen, you should be aware the IRS refunds millions to crooks who filed false returns on behalf of people who were due a check. Those are dollars they have no way of getting back – and you and me and every good citizen end up covering the difference in the long run.

Last year I calculated more than 30 hours of work rectifying the situation. So far in 2016 – after spending three hours on the phone with the IRS this week – the clock is at 20 hours and ticking. Multiply that by a few hundred thousand people in a similar situation and the time-waste is substantial.

So be careful where you roam on the World Wide Web. Guard your passwords like gold in Ft. Knox. Hope the big companies – whose electronic security measures failed and exposed social security numbers to the wrong folks – get their acts together.

It’s an electronic jungle out there.


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