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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Credit.com.
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 www.identitytheft.gov 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 IRS.gov, 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.