Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your Social Security number (SSN), to file a tax return. Although tax identity theft is less prevalent than other types of identity theft, it can still cause some major headaches and take some time to resolve. To help reduce your chances of becoming a victim, be sure to recognize the warning signs and take the necessary precautions to protect your personal information.
Tax-Related Identity Theft Warning Signs
In many cases, you may not know that you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft until you are notified by the IRS. There are, however, some distinct signs that you may have an issue, such as:
- Receiving a letter from the IRS inquiring about a tax return you did not file.
- Not being able to e-file because of a duplicate SSN.
- Being notified that an IRS online account was created under your name.
- Receiving a tax transcript that you did not order.
- Being assigned an Employer Identification Number (EIN) but you did not request one.
- Receiving an IRS notice that your existing online tax account was disabled, updated, or accessed but you haven’t logged into it.
Another sign that you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft is records of income or wages received from an employer you never worked for in the past or present. This is a clear indication that someone is fraudulently using your SSN.
What To Do If You’re a Victim
If you believe that you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, there are some steps you can take to help remedy the situation and protect your financial accounts.
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice/letter and call the number provided.
- If your tax return is rejected when you e-file due to a duplicate SSN issue, complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. You can use the fillable form online, print it, and attach it to your tax return. Be sure to follow all mailing instructions included on the form, as well.
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov and file a complaint. Once you submit your complaint, you’ll receive a list of steps you should take to protect yourself during the recovery process.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) and place a fraud alert on your account. It’s also a good idea to review your report. If you notice any new credit accounts that you did not open, contact those creditors immediately and close the accounts.
If you believe that someone has falsely filed a tax return under your name and SSN, you can also get a copy of the return. To request the return, complete Form 4506-F, Request for a Copy of Fraudulent Tax Return. You can submit the form by mail or fax.
- By Mail – Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Fresno CA, 93725
- By FAX – Include a cover sheet marked ‘Confidential’ and FAX the form toll-free to 855-807-5720
The IRS will acknowledge your request within 30 days of receipt and generally send a follow-up letter or a copy of the return within 90 days.
Tips For Protecting Your Data & Identity
To minimize your risk of tax-related identity theft, the IRS has put together some helpful tips.
- Always treat your data like cash and never leave it lying around.
- Always lock your phone and computer, even if you’re just stepping away for a few moments.
- Install security software that updates automatically.
- Use encryption programs to protect sensitive data.
- Utilize unique, strong passwords, and do not use the same one on all your accounts.
- Implement multi-factor authentication where available.
- Back up your files.
- Only provide your personal and/or financial information over encrypted websites (HTTPS).
- Be aware of email and text phishing scams.
Any taxpayer who can verify their identity may also get an Identity Protection PIN. This six-digit number offers additional protection for your SSN on your tax return.
Remember, the IRS will never initiate contact with you by email, text, or social media to request any financial information or your Identity Protection PIN. If someone calls claiming to be the IRS and threatens you with jail or a lawsuit, hang up immediately – it’s a scam.