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How to Protect Yourself From Taxpayer Identity Theft

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How to Protect Yourself From Taxpayer Identity Theft

Tax identity theft happens when an identity thief swipes your Social Security number, files a tax return and claims a fraudulent refund from the U.S. government.

You may not know that an identity thief has struck until your legitimate tax return gets rejected because a thief used your Social Security number to file a phony return ahead of you.

You might also learn about taxpayer ID theft from a notice by the Internal Revenue Service.

Watch Out for Tax Identity Theft Scams

Beware of email scams. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by email or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive such a communication, report it to the IRS by forwarding it to

Phone scams. Beware of scammers claiming to be an IRS agent and threatening you with arrest or deportation if you don’t pay, or asking for your financial information so they can send you a refund. Report scam phone calls to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or online at IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting.

Text messages purporting to be from the IRS are also a scam. Be sure to report them as well.

Protect Your Social Security Number

  • Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Keep your Social Security card and any other document that shows your Social Security number in a safe place.
  • Only share your Social Security number when absolutely necessary.
  • Safeguard your personal financial information in your home and on your computer. Change online passwords regularly.
  • Review your credit reports and your Social Security Administration earnings statement each year for accuracy.

Monitoring your credit score regularly is another way to watch out for identity theft. A big unexpected change in your credit score might mean a thief has struck. For two free credit scores, visit

What to Do If You Are a Victim of Tax Identity Theft

Report the crime. File a report with your local police and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at or by calling the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338.

Request a fraud alert. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, and ask that a fraud alert be placed on your credit records.

Close fraudulent accounts. Close any credit or financial account that has been tampered with by a thief or opened without your permission.

Contact the IRS. Call the number provided on the IRS notice informing you of the fraud. Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. You can use a fillable form at, print, then mail or fax the form as needed as you clear your tax record.

Pay your taxes. Be sure to continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return on time, even if you must do so by mailing in paper forms.

Stay diligent. If you contacted the IRS about taxpayer ID theft and did not receive a resolution, contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 about your case.

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  • Jimmy

    How can a person who has your social security number get a tax refund? To file the tax return you have to have all the correct personal information plus the W-2 or 1099 forms information which goes in with the return.

    • Dee Oldguy

      They use whatever data they want and match it to the SSN number. Bogus W2, etc.

    • Ken Dodge

      A W-2 form is provided to employees, that is, recipients/ earners of salary or wages. While a Forms-1099 are required to be provided to recipients of other forms of payments, they are not required, nor should they ever be attached to or filed with tax returns, as they are only intended for the recipient only.

  • Vince Ruta

    been there and done that – the thief used a 1040ez and the IRS is so far behind in examining returns and such it didn’t get caught until I tired to file for 2014 and none of the information I was using matched the info from the fraudulent 1040EZ …

    Bottom line is FILE AS EARLY AS YOU CAN


    • JK

      Did you eventually get your money? I may be headed down the same path. My return was just rejected because it they say another return was submitted using the same SSN.

      • Vince Ruta

        Turns out I actually I owe the IRS money – I had assumed a small refund was coming and had not bothered to generate the return for 13 – since there is no penalty for late filing if your getting a refund. So now I am doubly screwed. 2014 returns have to be via paper, and 2013 returns have to wait till the 2014 returns are process and the documentation the IRS has on file for 2013 has been received by me to generate a set of returns to be filed with the forms they have, the police report, and some sort of report from the Social Security Department. This also now means I have to file an identify theft report with all the credit reporting agencies and dig through all that crap. The IRS is doing their own investigation and will go after the perps if they can find them – but they will not provide any sort of information to me about what was processed or how much the claim / refund was for or where it was sent. The address and manner of filing has not changed more then 25 years but they never thought to question why my return suddenly went from married filing jointly from the same address, with the same banking information – to a single ez filer from a different address and different bank account and so on and so forth….. Just a royal Pain and still in the processes of dealing with all the fall out

        • Doreen

          I just went through the same crap. I’ve been filing a joint return with my husband (same last name) since 1987. I got the IRS Letter 5071C telling me they received my 2014 Form 1040 but could not process it until they heard from me. The dumb ( website was useless; it took me HOURS to get through to the IRS Service Center. Then I spent an hour on the phone verifying my personal info and getting details on all the steps I need to take to report the fraud (contact police, SSA, FTC, credit bureaus). Luckily I had filed my 2013 taxes and the slime ball who stole my identity didn’t have any of that info. I am angry over the whole situation because the IRS won’t tell you anything about where the bogus filing originated, the refund amount, etc. And yes, the irony is that this is the first time ever that we actually owe the IRS. It sucks to be me!

  • Simone

    I am concern and want some guidance. I have a friend who held a party where she sells beauty and health stuff. I had to pay 50 to be a member and then would get things at whole sale price. I am concern because I had to for this membership and give my social security number. I didn’t sign anything or did I get a copy of this. Later, she texted an email account and password. I since changed my password but it just does not sit well with me. I asked her for a copy of this and so far she been busy or avoiding me.
    Any comments appreciated

    • Gerri Detweiler

      She may have obtained your SSN to sign up as a distributor but it is disconcerting that she won’t respond to your requests and I think you are right to be concerned. Do you have the name of the company you joined? Have you tried to contact their corporate office?

  • Greyreader

    The one thing everyone 65 and older don’t realize is that the morons in our government who run Medicare use your Social Security number on the Medicare card. Don’t carry it in your wallet or on your person unless you’re going to the doctor.

    • Credit Experts

      Hopefully, that’s about to change, but you’re right. For now, don’t keep it in your wallet. We’ve seen suggestions that you take the real one for an initial visit, then copy it, block out (or cut out) the number on the copied version, and let THAT be the one you carry. Here’s a post about changes to come:

      Will Social Security Numbers Finally Be Taken Off Medicare Cards?

      • Elena63

        I saw that article & being new to Medicare (and appalled that my SSN is on the Medicare card), I called Medicare to request a new card without my SSN. They pretty much told me to take a hike.

        Prior to becoming Medicare eligible, I refused to give out my SSN to all medical facilities, pointing out that all the information they needed was on the card furnished by my employer-sponsored insurance carrier. I had been previously burned by a major NYC hospital where the intake clerks were stealing SSNs. Most of the time, the medical facility or doctor’s office would back off from making me give them my SSN.

        Now, my primary insurance carrier is Medicare & I’m stuck with a card that displays my SSN in BIG BOLD PRINT. Medicare won’t issue me a new card based on a telephone request. They said I’d have to wait until they get around to generating the new ones which means I might have to wait up to four years.

        I’ve always preferred carrying my proof of insurance with me in case I get into an accident or a situation where I can’t speak for myself. I like the idea of making a copy of the card & redacting the SSN. If the hospital doesn’t like it, they can just treat me the same way they treat illegals in this country. No insurance card? No problem!

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