Tax return identity theft has reached such epidemic proportions that it tops the list of the IRS’s Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. With tax season well under way, here are tips the IRS wants you to know about identity theft so you can avoid becoming the victim.
- The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information, or send emails stating you are being electronically audited or that you are getting a refund.
- If you receive a scam email claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to the IRS at email@example.com.
- If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but does not begin with ‘www.irs.gov,’ forward that link to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If your Social Security number is stolen, another individual may use it to get a job. That person’s employer may report income earned by them to the IRS using your Social Security number, thus making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return. If this occurs, contact the IRS to show that the income is not yours.
- Your identity may have been stolen if a letter from the IRS indicates more than one tax return was filed for you or the letter states you received wages from an employer you don’t know. If you receive such a letter from the IRS, leading you to believe your identity has been stolen, respond immediately to the name, address or phone number on the IRS notice.
- If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost wallet, questionable credit card activity, or credit report, provide the IRS with proof of your identity. Fax a copy of your valid government-issued identification – such as a Social Security card, driver’s license or passport – along with a copy of a policy report and/or a completed IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit to the IRS at 855-807-5720. You can also contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 800-908-4490. You should also follow FTC guidance for reporting identity theft at ftc.gov/idtheft.
- While preparing your tax return for electronic filing, make sure to use a strong password to protect the data file. Once your return has been e-filed, burn the file to a CD or store it on a flash drive and remove the personal information from your hard drive. Store the CD or flash drive in a safe place, such as a lock box or safe. Ask your accountant or tax preparer what measures they take to protect your information.
- If you have information about the identity thief that affected your personal information negatively, file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov. The IC3 gives victims of cybercrime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations. IC3 sends every complaint to one or more law enforcement or regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over the matter.
Identity theft is scary and expensive for both individuals and businesses, but there are ways to protect yourself. Refer to the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft or the IRS Identity Theft Protection page on the IRS website, and then ask your independent insurance agent for more information about data compromise and identity theft coverage.