Tax-Related Identity Theft – Reduce Your Risk
by James Stork
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Tax-related identity theft has become a huge threat to the American taxpayer. It occurs when someone obtains your stolen Social Security Number and files a tax return to claim a fraudulent refund. If they file a return with your SSN before you file, their return is considered the valid tax return until you can prove your identity was stolen. It can take up to a year or longer to prove the theft occurred and obtain your refund.
Here are some tips for reducing your risk:
- E-File your tax return as soon as possible. Tax-related identity theft can only occur if the criminal files before you file.
- Don’t carry around your Social Security card or any document or electronic device with your SSN on it.
- Only provide your SSN to a business when deemed absolutely necessary.
- Protect your personal financial information at home and on your computer and other electronic devices.
- Check your credit report annually.
- Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.
- Protect your computer – use firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, update security patches on your operating system and Internet-facing applications, and change passwords on your accounts every 3-6 months.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have either initiated the contact or are sure you know who you are dealing with.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers through email, text or social media to request sensitive information.
If You Suspect Tax-Related Identity Theft
If the IRS sends you a notice indicating that more than one return was filed for you, or if you otherwise suspect identity theft, take these steps immediately:
- File a report with the local police.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov or the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit reports:
- If you receive a notice from the IRS, respond immediately; call the number provided in the notice.
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Then print the PDF and mail or fax according to the 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, contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
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