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Protect Yourself From Tax Identity Theft

Protect Yourself From Tax Identity Theft

Tax season can be prime time for identity thieves. Since tax returns have all the information they need to steal your identity, you’ll want to take some precautions. Here are a few simple tax-time tips to help keep your information safe:

File Early and Securely

Identity thieves will often try to file fraudulent tax returns before their victims in order to avoid detection. Avoid delays by keeping all your receipts well organized (for those who itemize), and start filing as soon as you receive all your tax documents.

If you are preparing your own tax documents:

  • Use a secure network if you are eFiling
  • Mail your tax return directly from the Post Office

And if you are using a tax preparer:

Choose a reputable tax preparer. Before handing over your tax documents to anyone, you’ll want to make sure your tax preparer is registered with the IRS. You’ll also want to ask for their Tax Preparer Identification Number. It’s important to choose a reputable company in order to avoid scams.

Add an Extra Layer of Protection

Starting in January of 2021, the IRS will also expand the use of their identity protection personal identification number (IP PIN) to all individual taxpayers, something that was previously only available to victims of identity theft. The IP PIN is a six-digit number designed to prevent misuse of Social Security numbers to submit fraudulent federal income tax returns. To learn more, or opt-in to get your IP PIN, go here.

Know the Signs of Identity Theft

You may not know you’re a victim of identity theft until you’re notified by the IRS of a possible issue with your return. Some possible signs of tax-related identity theft are:

  • You get:
    • A letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return that you did not file.
    • A tax transcript in the mail that you did not request.
    • An IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name.
    • An IRS notice that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled when you took no action.
    • An IRS notice that you owe additional tax or refund offset, or that you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • You cannot e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security number.
  • IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer that you did not work with.

Recognize Scams

Tax identity thieves may try to steal your personal information in a number of ways:

  • Phishing – These are unsolicited emails and fake websites to lure potential victims into divulging personal information. The IRS does not contact taxpayers via email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. You can report any activity you deem suspicious to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Verification requests - Don’t be fooled by scammers asking you to “verify” your W-2 or personal information. If the IRS needed to request ID verification, they will generally send a letter 5071C (check the upper corner for the number) in the mail and ask you to verify your identity using the Identity Verification Service.
  • Phone scams - Scammers impersonating IRS agents may make aggressive or threatening calls demanding money or offering a refund. Sometimes they even alter their Caller ID information to make it appear like they are calling from an IRS office. First legitimate contact with the IRS is usually via mail.
  • Inflated refund claims - Beware of tax preparers who ask you to sign a blank check and promise big refunds before looking at your records or those that charge fees based on the percentage of your refund.
  • Fake charities - After disasters, it’s common for scammers to impersonate charities. You can use IRS.gov to find out which charities are legitimate. Don’t give out personal information. Don’t give or send cash, and don’t be pressured into making a decision over the phone.

Take Action if You Are a Victim

If your Social Security number is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these actions:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice: Call the number provided.
  • If your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your Social Security number, or if the IRS instructs you to do so, complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit PDF. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail your return according to the instructions.
  • Visit IdentityTheft.gov for steps you should take right away to protect yourself and your financial accounts.
  • If you believe someone has filed a fraudulent return in your name, you can get a copy of the return.
  • If you e-file your tax return and get a message telling you that a dependent on your return has been claimed on another tax return or their own, or if you receive an IRS Notice CP87A, you’ll need to find out why someone else claimed your dependent.
  • Call the IRS at 800.829.1040.

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