Terry Savage: Identity theft epidemic

Terry Savage, Tribune Content Agency on

False unemployment claims have been coming to light as people filed their 2020 tax returns this past spring. Many people have received a letter known as the 5071C letter (or other variations) from the IRS asking you to “verify” your identity.

To do that you need your personal account number from a credit card, mortgage, student loan, home equity loan or line of credit, or car loan. They also ask for a mobile phone associated with your name and your mailing address from your previous year’s tax return.

But many seniors don’t have any of the above! And they may not even have filed a tax return in previous years because of low income — and only did so in 2020 to claim the stimulus check.

The IRS says if you can’t verify your information over the phone, they will “schedule an appointment at your local IRS office to verify your identity in person.” Good luck with that! Instead, contact the IRS Taxpayer Advocate at 877-777-4778.

A last resort

Don’t panic if your identity has been stolen. But get ready for a long process. First, file a police report. That’s critical to proving your case if questions arise. Then get help restoring your credit at the Identity Theft Resource Center ( or call them at 888-400-5530.


Sadly, there is no vaccination against identity theft — only serious prevention and continuous scrutiny. And that’s the Savage Truth.


(Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and the author of four best-selling books, including “The Savage Truth on Money.” Terry responds to questions on her blog at

©2021 Terry Savage. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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