IRS Identity Theft Protection Tips

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IRS identity theft is when someone uses a Social Security number that is stolen to claim a Federal or State tax refund fraudulently. The victim may not know until they file a return of their own. In addition, they may receive a notice from the IRS that the return was rejected because the Social Security number had already been used. Keeping yourself identity safe will help protect you from IRS identiity theives.

Young woman on a computer finding out she was a victim of identity theft

Common IRS Identity Theft Scams

An unexpected email from the Internal Revenue Service offering you a tax refund or credit reports is always a scam set up by identity thieves. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by social media or email to request financial or personal information. Forward a scam email that claims to be from the IRS to [email protected].

Unexpected phone calls from people claiming to be IRS agents and threatening deportation or arrest for failure to pay immediately are scams too. Sometimes the callers will request financial information as they claim they are preparing to send a refund.

Report all schemes and suspected fraud calls to the Tax Administration Treasury Inspector General at 1-800-366-4484. Websites that do not begin with ‘’ are not IRS websites. Forward the links to [email protected].

Warning signs also include having collection action taken for a year a tax return was not filed or a refund offset or owing additional taxes. The IRS records may indicate wages or other income received from a person or employer for whom you did not work.

Protecting Your Social Security Number

Keeping your social security safe with a lock

Keep your Social Security card and other documents with your SSN on it in a safe place. It is not a good idea to routinely carry around documents that display your SSN. Be cautious of giving your Social Security number when asked for it.

Also, only share your social security number when absolutely necessary. Protect financial information on your computer or in your home. Annually check the earnings statement from the Social Security Administration. Make an annual credit report check.

Protect personal computers by

  • Changing Internet account passwords with strong passwords
  • Update security patches
  • Use anti-virus/spam software
  • Use firewalls

Protect personally identifiable information by providing your Social Security number only when you initiate contact and are confident you know who is asking. To reduce risk, learn to recognize and avoid threatening calls, phishing emails, and texts from posers of organizations like the IRS, credit card companies, and your bank.

Data Breaches

Large computer holding personal information

Not all computer hacks or data breaches result in identity theft. All identity theft is not tax-related. It is essential to know what type of personally identifiable information is stolen. Did the data breach compromise your Social Security number?

Ask the company what is being done to protect your Social Security number or your credit card. The Federal Trade Commission makes recommendations if someone uses your personal information to make purchases, file taxes, or open accounts. Check the federal government’s website for more information. It is a one-stop resource to report and recover from theft.

If you receive a notice that a data breach caused a company to lose your personal information, you lose your wallet or learn of an online account being hacked, follow the recommended steps on this government site. The most important documents listed below are the ones you need to take action on right away:

  • Social Security Number
  • Online Password or Login
  • Credit or Debit Card Number
  • Driver’s License Information
  • Bank Account Information
  • Children’s Personal Information

If you are affected by specific data breaches involving Equifax, IRS Data Retrieval Tool for FAFSA, or others, follow the goverment’s recomendation. If you want to report identity theft, someone files an income tax return using your information, or a data breach exposed your information follow the instructions at . You will be able to create a personal recovery plan.

Local law enforcement will take a police report if asked. A police report is required by some businesses to remove fraudulent debt from the account of a victim. Attorneys, working with identity theft victims, may find the pre-filled forms and letters to send to debt collectors, businesses, and credit bureaus helpful.

IRS Efforts

Identity theft is burdensome to victims and presents a challenge to government agencies, organizations, and businesses. The Internal Revenue Service combats tax-related identity theft with victim assistance, detection, and prevention strategies.

Combating identity theft continues to be a high priority. The tax industry, which includes software providers and tax preparers, and the states have joined the IRS to enact safeguards and take actions to combat identity theft that is tax-related. Many are invisible, but valuable, to the fight against criminal syndicates. Like new login standards required of those who use tax software to prepare their taxes

If you suspect or think you are a victim of tax-related identity theft and believe your Social Security number has been compromised, respond to any IRS notice immediately. You will be provided a number to call.

If identity theft is suspected, file your return and pay any taxes calculated, even if a paper return has to be submitted. Also, if you E-File a return that is rejected due to a duplicate filing with your Social Security number, complete an Identity Theft Affidavit, known to the IRS as Form ç.

Form 14039 is located on the IRS website. Print it and attach it to your income tax return and mail as directed. The form can also be faxed or mailed separately as well. It important to remember to file the form just one time. Be on the lookout for IRS follow-up correspondence and respond quickly. If contacting the IRS does not resolve the situation, specialized assistance is available at 1-800-908-4490.

Remember, the IRS will not initiate contact by email to request financial or personal information. The IRS does not send any electronic communication like social media channels or text messages, so if you get any you’ll know it’s a scam. Cybercriminals are continuously evolving, therefore, the IRS and tax industry must also keep up on the new ways cybercriminals are stealing information.

Other Actions to Take

File an FTC complaint. Contact TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records. Contact financial institutions and close credit or financial accounts that were tampered with by an identity thief or opened without your permission.