Tax season is here and it is more important than ever for Americans to be alert for tax-related identity theft and to know the signs that your private information has been stolen. Criminals attempting to steal your tax refund, will fraudulently file your tax return early with the plan to claim your refund check, according to the National Consumer’s League.
Statistics from the Center for Victim Research Center show that stolen identity fraud affects between 7 and 10 percent of Americans.
Common Signs You May Be a Victim of Tax Identity Theft:
- Your e-filed tax form is rejected
- The IRS or your tax adviser tells you more than one tax return has been filed using your Social Security number
- The IRS mails you a letter saying a suspicious return has been filed using your Social Security number
- Your IRS record shows you were paid by an employer you don’t know. Why? Someone may have used your Social Security number to get employment. The employer reported subsequent income to the IRS.
- The IRS mails you a notice that you owe additional tax for a year that you didn’t file a tax return
Tax-related identity theft is a specific danger but many of the following precautions apply to other types of identity theft as well.
- Guard your Social Security number. Provide it only when necessary and keep your Social Security card in a secure place–do not carry it around with you.
- Keep your tax records secure.
- Use strong passwords and change them periodically.
- Make sure your computer devices have security software with firewall, malware, and anti-virus protections.
- Learn how to recognize scams and other attempts to steal your personal information. These include phishing emails and calls and texts from impostors posing as representatives of your bank, your credit card company, or the IRS. The IRS never contacts taxpayers by email, text or social media to request personal information. They do not call taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests. IRS notices about tax-related identity theft are sent by postal mail only.
- Depending on your circumstances, you might also be able to receive an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS. This is a six-digit number designed to keep taxpayers’ Social Security number out of the hands of criminals. You can also opt-in for one of these numbers if you filed a return last year as a resident of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas or Washington.
Actions you can take if you believe you’re a victim:
- Contact the IRS directly.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.identitytheft.gov/ to report the theft and file a complaint.
- Make sure you file IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit with your tax return. If you are the victim of tax-related identity theft, you might not be able to file your taxes electronically. Submit your 14039 form and tax returns by paper filing.
- Alert the three national credit bureaus of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion and request a fraud alert for your credit reports.
National Consumer’s League; Tax ID Theft: https://www.fraud.org/tax_id_theft
Lifelock; What is Tax-Related Identity Theft and How Can You Recover From It: https://www.lifelock.com/learn-identity-theft-resources-what-is-tax-related-identity-theft.html
Internal Revenue Service; Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/taxpayer-guide-to-identity-theft
Federal Trade Commission- Consumer; Tax-Related Identity Theft: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/tax-related-identity-theft