|Protecting Your Personal Information from Tax Identity Thieves
To bring greater awareness to the crime of tax identity theft, House Resolution 646 recognizes Jan. 29 through Feb. 2 as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week in Pennsylvania. According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax refund fraud is the largest and fastest-growing identity theft category.
Tax identity theft occurs when someone steals a person’s personal information, often obtained through old tax returns, and uses it to file current fraudulent tax returns in someone else’s name to receive a tax refund.
Taxpayers in their 20s are at the highest risk for tax identity theft victimization; however, anyone at any age can be targeted. The best way to safeguard a person’s identity is to properly dispose of any documents that contain personal and identifying information by shredding bank and credit card statements, as well as old tax returns. In addition, individuals should use firewall and anti-virus software on devices, create strong passwords on websites, and refrain from opening emails from unknown senders.
In addition to using stolen information to get a tax refund, thieves may also use stolen Social Security numbers to get a job. If you receive a letter from the IRS saying more than one tax return was filed in your name, or IRS records show you have wages from an employer you don’t know, then you may be the victim of tax identity theft. Also, if you suspect a letter, email or telephone call about your tax records is a scam, call the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue at 717-787-8201 or the IRS at 800-829-1040.
Downsizing the Legislature
In an effort to make the Pennsylvania House of Representatives more efficient, the House State Government Committee this week reported out House Bill 153, a proposal to shrink the House from its current membership of 203 to 151.
Since the proposal seeks to amend the state Constitution, identical versions must pass both chambers in two consecutive sessions before going before the voters. The measure already passed both the House and Senate last term, and it now goes before the full House in the coming weeks. If the legislation is approved again in both chambers, it will go before voters as a referendum.
Getting Medical Test Results Faster
Patients who have medical imaging tests done would get their results faster, especially if follow-up care is needed, under legislation which passed the House this week.
House Bill 1884 would require that results which are provided to a health care practitioner after certain diagnostic imaging services are performed on a patient be sent directly to the patient or designee within 20 days if the results include a significant abnormality. The clock starts when the results are sent to the patient’s ordering physician.
The test results may be sent electronically by email or fax or added to the patient’s electronic medical record. Test results belong to the patient, and by law, are provided upon request.
Providing patients with the summary of test results when an abnormality presents will enable patients to be proactive in their health care, and provide a safety net in the event of communication breakdown.
The bill now moves to the state Senate for approval.
Winter Weather Causing Early Pothole Outbreak
PennDOT reminds motorists they can report potholes and other roadway concerns on state roads by calling 1-800-FIX-ROAD or visiting penndot.gov and clicking on “Submit Roadway Feedback.”
The agency reported that extreme fluctuations in temperatures, coupled with an active snow season, is causing an early outbreak of potholes.
A pothole develops when water seeps below the road through small cracks in the pavement surface. As the water repeatedly freezes and thaws due to temperature fluctuations, a cavity forms below the surface and larger cracks develop, which destroys the strength of the pavement.
When reporting a pothole, be as specific as possible as to pothole locations or other maintenance concerns such as deer removal or signing issues. For state routes, report the county, municipality, street name and route number, or the state route (SR) number that can be found on small black and white signs posted along state roadways. Also provide a description of any familiar landmarks that will help PennDOT locate the problem area.