Tax Related Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Tax season is in full swing which means you should be diligent about protecting your personal information.
A major scam concerning federal and state tax returns is identity theft.  

People fall prey to clever cybercriminals who trick them into giving up Social Security numbers, account numbers or password information. In turn, criminals use this information a variety of ways, including filing fraudulent tax returns.

What is tax related identity theft?

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.

You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN. Or, the IRS may send you a letter saying they have identified a suspicious return using your SSN. Innocent taxpayers are victimized because their refunds are delayed.

Know the warning signs of identity theft

Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or your tax preparer about:

  • More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
  • You owe additional tax, refund offset or had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer where you did not work.
  • Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received an income change.

Tips to protect yourself from identify theft

Identity theft protection starts with you.  

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents with your SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) on it.
  • Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN 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.

If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft

If you receive a notice from the IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice.

If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 (Mon. – Fri., 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. local time; Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time). They can take steps to secure your tax account.

Also, fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. Write legibly and follow the directions on the back of the form that relate to your specific circumstances.

In addition, recommends you take additional steps with agencies outside the IRS:

  • Report incidents of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261.
  • File a report with the local police.
  • Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus:
  • — Equifax –, 800-525-6285
  • — Experian –, 888-397-3742
  • — TransUnion –, 800-680-7289
  • Contact your financial institutions and close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

If you previously contacted the IRS and did not receive a resolution, contact the IRS for specialized assistance at 1-800-908-4490. They have teams available to assist you.

Also note:

  • The IRS will 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 accounts.  
  • The IRS will never demand payment over the phone.
  • Report all suspicious online or emailed tax scams to:
  • For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call 1-800-366-4484.
  • Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting. 


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