Tax-Related Identity Theft
An unexpected message from the IRS could be a warning sign that your Social Security number is being misused by an identity thief. Contact the IRS if you receive a notice that:
- more than one tax return was filed in your name, or
- IRS records show you were paid by an employer you don't know.
Like many Americans, you may be filing your tax return soon. Unfortunately, tax season is when some people learn they’re a victim of identity theft. If you're one of them, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can help you recover.
An IRS Notice Could Tip You Off About Identity Theft
There are several ways identity theft can affect the processing of your tax return. Most involve someone misusing your Social Security number (SSN), which the IRS uses to make sure your filing is accurate and complete and that you get any refund you are due.
If someone uses your SSN to file for a tax refund before you do, the IRS may believe you already filed and received your refund. You might not know this until you get a letter from the IRS telling you that more than one return was filed in your name.
If someone used your SSN to get a job, the employer may report that person's income to the IRS using your SSN. This may lead the IRS to believe you did not report all of your income on your tax return. If this happens, the IRS might send you a notice that you appear to have received wages from an employer you don't know.
Think you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft? Contact the IRS
If you get a notice from the IRS, respond immediately to the name and number printed on the notice.
If you think you have tax issues related to identity theft, let the IRS know as soon as possible, even if you don't have any evidence that it’s affected your tax return. Visit the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit website or call 1-800-908-4490. The unit's hours are 8:00 am to 8:00 pm (your local time).
Specialists will work with you to get your tax return filed, get you any refund you are due, and protect your IRS account from identity thieves in the future. You can document the identity theft by submitting a police report or the IRS ID Theft Affidavit (Form 14039). When you file the affidavit, you'll have to prove your identity with a copy of a valid government-issued identification, like your Social Security card, driver's license or passport.
Other Steps to Respond to Identity Theft
In addition to contacting the IRS, it's important to take certain steps quickly to minimize the potential damage from identity theft if your information is accidentally disclosed or deliberately stolen:
- File a police report with local law enforcement officials. This is an essential step in claiming your rights.
- Close any accounts opened without your permission.
- Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports, order copies, and review them carefully. Notifying one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies that you need a fraud alert is sufficient. That company will notify the other two.
- Equifax: 800-525-6285 www.equifax.com
- Experian: 888-397-3742 www.experian.com
- Trans Union: 800-916-8800 www.transunion.com
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Online: www.ftc.gov/complaint
- By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261
You can learn more about these steps at OnGuardOnline.gov/idtheft.
Avoid Phishing Scams
Some identity thieves send emails that appear to be from the IRS to try to get you to give up your personal information. In fact, the IRS generally does not contact taxpayers by email. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional IRS Offices and Contacts
If you believe your tax issue can't be handled online or by phone, you can visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC). Visit the TAC office locator to find a TAC office near you.
Call the IRS Tax Fraud Referral Hot Line (800-829-0433) if you suspect someone is misusing your identification information to commit tax fraud. You also may submit Form 3949A (Information Referral) to report potential tax law violations to the IRS.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS, helps taxpayers solve problems with the agency. TAS has at least one local taxpayer advocate in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. You can call your local advocate. The number is in your phone book;in Publication1546, Taxpayer Advocate Service – Your Voice at the IRS; and on the IRS website at Contact Your Advocate. You can also call the IRS’s toll-free case intake line at 1-877-777-4778.