Tax-Related Identity Theft
Tax-related identity theft occurs when your Social Security Number (SSN) is stolen and used to file a fraudulent tax return. Victims of identity theft are often unaware their information has been compromised until they e-file or the IRS reports a suspicious return involving their SSN.
The Warning Signs
If you have fallen victim to tax-related identity theft, the IRS may contact you regarding suspicious activity involving your name and social security number. One red flag is having more than one tax return filed under your name. Other signs that your identity might have been stolen include, your records showing income from an employer for whom you have never been employed or owing taxes from a year you did not file.
Next Steps for Victims
If you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, take action immediately to prevent further damage. First, file a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov. Second, place a fraud alert on your credit records by contacting one of the major three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Lastly, if any new accounts were opened in your name, you will want to take steps to close those accounts.
If you know or suspect your SSN has been compromised, contact the IRS immediately. Fill out IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and print and mail your tax return with the form attached. According to the IRS, you should “continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.” Only victims who have had their SSN compromised and have been contacted by the IRS should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
When a data breach occurs within a company that stores your data, be sure to thoroughly review all communications from the company to help you fully understand what personally identifying information was compromised and what they are doing to protect you.
Reduce your Risk
Always use strong passwords and anti-virus software to protect your data and tax records. The IRS suggests that you avoid routinely carry social security card, and learn to recognize illegitimate emails and phone calls. It is also important to avoid clicking suspicious links or downloading unsolicited attachments. Remember, the IRS will never contact taxpayers asking for personal or financial information.
Tax-related identity theft can burden not only individuals, but businesses, organizations, and governments. Keep you and your dependents safe from fraudulent filings this tax season.
For more information: Identity Theft Information for Taxpayers