Tax season is here and that means most of us are anticipating getting extra cash back from Uncle Sam. But unfortunately, you’re not the only one who’s waiting on a payout. Criminals are waiting for the perfect opportunity to steal personal information and commit tax identity fraud. Tax identity theft can happen to anyone. That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant, exercise caution, and trust your gut.
What is Tax Identity Theft?
Tax identity theft happens when someone steals your Social Security Number and other personal information to file a fraudulent tax return or claim someone else’s refund. Tactics range from old school methods like stealing mail to new tech savvy ways through data breaches, pretending to be a representative of a well-known company (like government agency or your bank), or via phishing emails.
How to Keep Safe from Tax Identity Theft
The best way to avoid tax identity theft is staying organized and keeping tax records, financial statements, account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive information in a secure place.
Never give out information to anyone who texts, emails, or reaches out through social media claiming to be from the IRS. If you receive a phone call, exercise caution because the person on the other end of the phone may be a scammer impersonating the IRS. To verify a caller’s legitimacy, contact the IRS directly from the phone number listed on the IRS website.
When filing your taxes, be sure to used trusted and well-known sources. If you're filing electronically using tax preparation software like TurboTax, adding a multi-factor authentication offers added security to your online account. If a criminal gets access to your username and password, the extra credentials needed to access your account makes it harder for criminals to steal your information.
What Are the Signs of Tax Identity Theft?
Trust your gut and instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Here are the common signs of a tax identity theft:
- Receiving a letter from the IRS inquiring about a tax return that you didn't file.
- Inability to e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security Number.
- A tax transcript arrives in the mail that you didn't request.
- The IRS notifies you that an online account has been created in your name, or an existing account has been accessed or disabled, but you didn't initiate this.
- You're informed by the IRS that you owe additional taxes, or collection actions will be taken against your for a year you didn't file a tax return.
- IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer you didn't work for.
- You've been assigned an Employer Identification Number but didn't make the request.
What to Do If You're a Victim of Tax Identity Theft
If you’re information ends up in the wrong hands and you become victim of tax identity theft, here’s what you need to do.
- Complete the Identity Theft Affidavit on the IRS website to inform them that you may be a victim of tax fraud.
- Contact us immediately at 855.889.4328, stop by your local branch, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Go to IdentityTheft.gov and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Check with your state tax agency and confirm any other additional steps needed at the state level.