Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
This is income tax filing season, a season identity thieves thrive on.
The Internal Revenue Service has taken numerous steps to combat identity theft and protect taxpayers.
Officials are continually looking at ways to increase data security and protect taxpayers' identities with assistance from the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.
Identity theft cases are among the most complex cases the IRS handles.
Below are some tips from the Internal Revenue Service's Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft:
How do you know if your tax records have been affected by identity theft?
Usually, an identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer's identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. Generally, the identity thief will use a stolen Social Security number to file a forged tax return and attempt to get a fraudulent refund early in the filing season.
You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return later in the filing season and discover that two returns have been filed using the same Social Security number.
Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive an IRS notice or letter that states that:
- More than one tax return for you was filed,
- You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return, or
- IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
What to do if your tax records were affected by identity theft?
If you receive a notice from IRS, respond immediately. If you believe someone may have used your SSN fraudulently, please notify IRS immediately by responding to the name and number printed on the notice or letter. You will need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.
For victims of identity theft who have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution, please contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free, at 1-800-908-4490.
How can you protect your tax records?
If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, etc., contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
How can you minimize the chance of becoming a victim?
- Don't carry your Social Security card or any document(s) with your SSN on it.
- Don't give a business your SSN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
- Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Secure personal information in your home.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches, and change passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don't give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
Remember, 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 channels.