What is Tax Identity Theft anyway? It occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. You may be unaware that this has happened until you efile your return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN.
The more you know about tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, the less likely you’ll become a victim.
To protect your identity this tax season, take the following precautions:
Use qualified and reputable professionals. If having your taxes prepared for you, be sure to use qualified preparers and make sure they include their Preparer Tax Identification Number. Be wary of preparers who guarantee high-value tax returns. Be cautious of preparers who tell you that you need to obtain other services from them in order for them to complete your taxes. Other services may be notary services, immigration services or sending registered letters.
E-file only from secure computers. Make sure antivirus software is up to date and never use public Wi-Fi to file tax returns. Don’t file taxes from a link in an email.
Educate staff. Remind your employees they need to be careful and to keep their W-2 safe. Train payroll staff and employees to be wary of any email appearing to be coming from the IRS, because it could be a phishing scam.
Retrieve mail from the mailbox as soon as possible. Your W-2 could be stolen from an unsecured mailbox.
Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or your tax professional/provider about:
- More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
- You owe additional tax, 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 wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.
Steps to take if you become a victim:
If you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends these steps:
- File a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
- Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 800-525-6285
- Experian, www.Experian.com, 888-397-3742
- TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 800-680-7289
- Contact your financial institutions, and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.
If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice; by calling 1-800-908-4490.
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your efiled return rejects because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.