Have you been sent a tax form for a job you never had? Identity theft can be to blame


As she read the documents, which were generated and sent to her by Uber, two thoughts occurred to her: “Identity theft” and “Oh, what a pain this is going to be to straighten out.”

Zacharias said her personal data was stolen by hackers who entered the U.S. Bureau of Personnel Management in 2013, when her husband was working for the government. It was one of the biggest security breaches in history, involving more than 20 million records.

Zacharias’ theory is that someone who actually drove for Uber last year (and made $ 13,807 as an independent contractor) gave the transport giant his data when he applied to be a driver. .

Zacharias believes the potential driver impersonated her because they knew their own information would disqualify them due to a serious criminal conviction or bad driving record brought to light during a mandatory driver’s check. track record by Uber.

“It really worried me that someone, maybe a criminal, was driving happily like me, creating a potentially dangerous situation,” Zacharias said.

Zacharias made an urgent attempt to contact Uber, but his emails and calls went unanswered for weeks. In addition to worrying about criminals dressing as Uber drivers, Zacharias wanted Uber to correct tax documents to avoid the hassle of the Internal Revenue Service believing she owed taxes on the income she owed. had not won.

Frustrated by Uber’s lack of response, Zacharias contacted me. I contacted Uber and explained the situation. Days later, Uber said it deactivated the Uber account of the person posing as Zacharias and said it was working on corrected returns with the IRS.

How many Uber drivers use fake identities? Uber won’t say how many complaints like Zacharias’s it received. But an accountant I spoke with said that these kinds of cases were happening more and more frequently among his clients and sent me a link to a webpage that Uber created for people who received wrong tax documents from the part of the company. (The accountant said this page wasn’t easy to find on Uber’s website, and in fact it wasn’t; I sent the link to Zacharias.)

Identity theft is increasing rapidly in the United States, according to a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission, a consumer protection agency that serves as a clearinghouse for reports of identity theft.

Nearly 1.4 million cases were reported to the FTC last year, more than double the previous year and more than three times the number in 2018.

“Identity theft is a terrible crime,” Uber said in a statement. “When we learn that someone is fraudulently using the app, we take immediate action, including working with law enforcement. Uber is constantly updating and strengthening its processes to protect against the constantly evolving schemes of scammers.

Here are the steps to take if your identity has been stolen, or if you suspect it has been, as the FTC recommends:

File a report with the FTC

The FTC will not directly investigate your complaint, but will add it to the millions on their records. Investigators and prosecutors use the data to detect trends and prioritize targets.

The report you file on the FTC’s user-friendly website will give you an official account of what happened which you can then provide to businesses and other government agencies, if necessary.

The FTC will also help you organize what it calls a “payback plan”. (By the way, if you notice an unauthorized purchase on your credit card that wasn’t the kind of identity theft Zacharias faced, start by calling your credit card company and tell them to freeze. your accounts, while you change your usernames, passwords, and PIN codes).

In Zacharias’ case, Uber did not respond to its numerous attempts to contact him, adding much aggravation.

Alert the IRS

If identity theft has tax implications, notify the IRS by completing and filing a simple one-page Identity Theft Affidavit, known as IRS Form 14039. You may also consider obtaining the IRS an “Identity Protection PIN,” a digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number.

Not everyone is entitled to an identity protection PIN code. The IRS says you must be a “confirmed victim” of identity theft and have already resolved any issues that your identity theft has created for you with the IRS.

The IRS says on its website that “you must pass a rigorous identity verification process” to obtain an identity protection PIN.

Notify credit agencies

There are three tools you can use to protect against an identity thief opening a new line of credit (loan or credit account) in your name: Initial Fraud Alert, Extended Fraud Alert, and Credit Freeze. All are free, according to the FTC.

You can get an initial one-year fraud alert by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian. This company must then alert the other two. When you have an initial alert on your credit report, lenders should verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name.

An extended fraud alert also requires lenders to verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name, but it remains in effect for seven years, unless you remove it sooner.

You can also go for a credit freeze, which is more drastic than a credit alert. It prohibits potential new creditors from accessing your credit history unless you lift the freeze first.

Notify the local police

You may need to provide the credit agencies with a police report in order to obtain a credit freeze or credit alert. The FTC recommends that you provide the police with a copy of the identity theft report that you filed with the FTC. You should also be prepared to provide government-issued ID with a photo and proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, or utility bill).

I have a problem? Send your consumer concern to sean.murphy@globe.com. Follow him on twitter @spmurphyboston.

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