Taxpayers can encounter identity theft involving their tax returns in several ways. One instance is where identity thieves try filing fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, which has been stolen and their refunds are delayed.
Here are some tips to protect you from becoming a victim, and steps to take if you think someone may have filed a tax return using your name:
Tips to protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or documents with your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-virus software, updating security patches and changing internet account passwords.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. local time; Alaska and Hawaii follow Pacific time).
If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft
Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive a notice from the IRS or learn from your tax professional that:
- More than one tax return was filed for you;
- You have a balance due, 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 more wages than you actually earned or
- Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting an income change.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800- 908-4490, extension 245 right
away so they can take steps to secure your tax account and match your SSN or ITIN. Also, fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.
You should also take steps with agencies outside the IRS:
- Report incidents of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.ftc.gov or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338.
- File a report with the local police.
- Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus:
1. Equifax – www.equifax.com, 800-525-6285
2. Experian – www.experian.com, 888-397-3742
3. TransUnion – www.transunion.com, 800-680-7289
Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.