On the heels of holiday shopping, increased online activity, and the upcoming tax season, fraudsters are hard at work attempting to obtain your private, personal information. Learn what tax identity theft is, what you can do to guard against it, and what to do if it happens to you.
What is Tax Identity Theft?
Tax identity theft is when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and collect your refund. You may not find out about it until you try to file your tax return and the IRS rejects it as a duplicate filing. While the IRS investigates, your tax refund can be delayed. The misuse of your SSN means you also may be at risk of other types of identity theft.
How to Protect Yourself from Tax Identity Theft?
Taking steps to protect your personal information can help you avoid tax identity theft. Here’s what you can do to stay ahead of identity thieves.
Protect documents that have personal information
Keep your tax records and Social Security card in a safe place. When you decide to get rid of your tax records, shred them. If you don’t have a shredder you can find local “shred days” in your area. The Better Business Bureau (BBB), nonprofit groups and local municipalities will offer these events for free to the public.
Protect your information from scammers online and on your phone
If you use tax preparation software like TurboTax, TaxAct, or TaxSlayer, use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication offers extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. The additional credentials you need to log in to your account fall into two categories. The first being something you have — like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app. The second being something you are — like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face. Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.
Don’t give your personal information to someone who calls, emails, or texts and says they’re with the IRS. It could be a scammer impersonating the IRS to steal your information or money. If you need to contact the IRS, call them at 1-800-829-1040.
What To Do If Someone Steals Your Tax Refund
If someone uses your Social Security number to file for a tax refund before you do, you’ll usually find out when you file your return with the IRS.
If you file by mail, the IRS will mail you a letter explaining that they received more than one return in your name. Follow the instructions in the letter.
If you try to submit your tax return online or through a tax preparer, the IRS will reject your tax return as a duplicate filing. If this happens, go to IdentityTheft.gov and report it. IdentityTheft.gov will create your:
- FTC Identity Theft Report
- IRS Identity Theft Affidavit
- Personal recovery plan
If you choose, IdentityTheft.gov will submit the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit to the IRS online so that the IRS can begin investigating your case. You can also get the Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) from irs.gov and submit it by mail.
Stay vigilant in protecting your personal information from bad actors. For additional resources on how to recognize, report and recover from Tax Identity Theft, go to FightCybercrime.org