Over 34,000 identity fraud cases were reported by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2011, an almost 100 percent increase over 2010. All that is required by the identity thief is a full name, date of birth and associated Social Security Number (SSN) to file a fraudulent tax return. The IRS has taken aggressive steps to curb fraudulent activity and in 2013indictments and sentencing doubled and the average prison term was more than three years (38 months) — the longest sentenced being 26 years.
Signs that you are an income tax theft victim
- Having your income tax return rejected by the IRS because it was already filed
- Not receiving a refund
- Owing additional taxes for unreported income
- Having suspicious activity appear in your credit report
Steps to take if you become a victim
If you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 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, 1-800-766-0008
Experian, www.Experian.com, 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 1-800-680-7289
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; call the number provided or, if instructed, go to IDVerify.irs.gov.
Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or if 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.
Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, request specialized assistance by calling 1-800-908-4490.
How to reduce your risk
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protection. Use strong passwords.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card companies and even the IRS.
- File your taxes early. This year, the IRS will begin accepting returns as of January 19th, with a deadline of April 18th.
- File your taxes electronically and have your tax refund sent to your bank account electronically.
- Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect your personal data. Do not carry cards with your SSN (e.g., some military retiree and dependent identification cards, Medicare cards, etc.)
- Properly safeguard old tax records.
- Review your credit report at least annually, check the government-sanctioned website AnnualCreditReport.com, or call 877-322-8228. You will be asked for your SSN and date of birth for authentication purposes.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media.
For more information
Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For phishing scams by phone, fax, or mail, call 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting website at: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml.
Visit the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft website at: https://www.irs.gov/uac/Taxpayer-Guide-to-Identity-Theft and learn how to report suspected tax fraud activity at: https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/How-Do-You-Report-Suspected-Tax-Fraud-Activity%3F.