Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone steals your Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund. You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN, or the IRS may send you a letter saying they have identified a suspicious return using your SSN.
Know the warning signs
Be alert to the signs of possible tax-related identity theft:
- There is more than one tax return filed in the same year using your SSN.
- You owe additional tax, have a refund offset, or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
- IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.
Steps to take if you become a victim
- File a complaint with the FTC at ldentityTheft.gov.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
- Contact your financial institutions and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.
If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided or, if instructed, go to IDVerify.irs.gov.
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
- If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, call 1-800-908-4490. They have specialized teams that can assist with tax-related identity theft.
Guard Against IRS Scams: What The IRS Will Never Do
Scammers often use tax season to prey on consumers’ identities and hard-earned money. Scammers may pose as IRS representatives and request personal information over the phone or offer to file consumers’ taxes for a fee.
The IRS will NEVER:
- initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.
- call to demand immediate payment or call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- threaten to involve local police or other law enforcement groups to issue an arrest or suspend a license.
Consumers can help protect themselves from tax scams by keeping the following in mind:
- The IRS contacts taxpayers by mail in most cases and will never ask for a credit card, prepaid debit card, money order or wire transfer immediately over the phone.
- Never give out personal information over the phone, such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers or credit/debit card numbers without verifying the source. To ensure the source is legitimate, hang up and call the entity using its official number.
- Consumers who are unsure about their tax situation can reach the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.