In the most recent Fact Sheets published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in January 2015, the IRS highlights its continuous efforts to combat taxpayer identity theft. Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a stolen Social Security Number (SSN) to file a false return and claim a fraudulent refund.
The IRS advises taxpayers to heed the following warning signs and take steps to help mitigate risk.
Warning Signs (usually communicated via IRS notice or letter) of tax-related identity theft:
- More than one return filed under your SSN.
- You owe additional tax, have a 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 wages from an employer unknown to you.
- Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting a change in income.
Steps to take for victims of tax-related identity theft:
- File a report with local police.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.govor the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
- Close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided.
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then mail or fax according to instructions.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
Ways to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of tax-related identity theft:
- Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or any document with your SSN on it.
- Don’t give a business your SSN just because someone asks – only when absolutely necessary.
- Protect your personal financial information at home and on your computer.
- Check your credit report annually.
- Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated contact or are sure you know who is asking.
Finally, please be aware that the IRS does not contact taxpayers via email, phone, tax messages or any other social media channels; rather all communication is done through written correspondence.