Tax Identity Theft

Updated February 04, 2019

 

Watch out for this growing form of identity theft.

It’s official. The 2019 tax season has arrived. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced they will start accepting paper and electronic tax returns on January 28, 2019. If you are like many Americans you are looking forward to getting your tax refund this year. Be careful! Tax identity thieves may be looking forward to getting your refund too.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You might find out it has happened when you get a letter from the IRS saying more than one tax return was filed in your name, or IRS records show you have wages from an employer you don’t know.

The IRS uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to make sure your filing is accurate and complete, and that you get any refund you are due. Identity theft can affect how your tax return is processed. An unexpected notice or letter from the IRS could alert you that someone else is using your SSN. Remember, the IRS never starts contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

If someone uses your SSN to file for a tax refund before you do, the IRS might think you already filed and got your refund. When you file your return later, IRS records will show the first filing and refund, and you’ll get a notice or letter from the IRS saying more than one return was filed for you.
If someone uses your SSN to get a job, the employer may report that person’s income to the IRS using your SSN. When you file your tax return, you won’t include those earnings. IRS records will show you failed to report all your income. The agency will send you a notice or letter saying you got wages but didn’t report them. The IRS doesn’t know those wages were reported by an employer you don’t know.

If you want to avoid becoming a victim this tax season, The FTC has these tips to fight tax identity theft:

  • File your tax return early in the tax season, if you can.
  • Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office.
  • Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
  • If tax identity theft happens to you, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report it to the FTC, file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS electronically, and get a personal recovery plan.

Now is prime time for tax identity theft, as millions of individuals file their personal tax returns leading up to the April 15 filing deadline. However, protecting your identity is a year-long endeavor. Your personal information is valuable. By securing your identity today, you can minimize your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.