Are You at Risk for Tax-Related Identity Theft?
With the 2017 tax filing date for most businesses and individuals behind us, the last thing you probably want to think about is income taxes. Unfortunately, criminals who commit tax-related identity theft don’t work seasonally. They’re constantly devising and unleashing new schemes.
Even though the IRS has taken successful steps to reduce tax-related identity theft, it cautions taxpayers to stay alert for scams year round and especially right after the tax filing season ends.
What is Tax-Related Identity Theft?
Tax-related identity theft is when someone uses your Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return in order to claim a refund. This kind of theft usually occurs early in the filing season – because the scammers want to get their fake return in before you get your real return filed.
You will most likely be unaware that you’re the victim of tax-related identity theft until you file your tax return and get a notice or letter from the IRS telling you:
- More than one tax return was filed for you.
- 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 show you received wages from an employer you don’t recognize.
However, it is important to remember that the IRS doesn’t start contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steps to Take in the Event of an Identity Theft Issue
If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, you should:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice by calling the number on the letter.
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
In the event that you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490.
When someone has enough of your personal information to file a fraudulent tax return, they can use your identity to commit other crimes. In addition to alerting the IRS as described above, you should also take the following steps:
- File a report with the local police.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at (877) 438-4338 or TTY (866) 653-4261.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
- Equifax: www.Equifax.com or (800) 525-6285
- Experian: www.Experian.com or (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion: www.TransUnion.com or (800) 680-7289
Don’t make the mistake of letting your guard down because tax season has passed. If you receive a suspicious communication from the IRS or other taxing authority, contact us for confirmation of its validity and advice on how to proceed.