Extension filers: Only left to file your taxes by October 17
Hide Arrow

TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / General Tax Tips / What Is Stolen Identity Refund Fraud?

What Is Stolen Identity Refund Fraud?

Updated for Tax Year 2015


A tax refund is as much an asset as a diamond ring, and just as some thieves target jewelry stores, others specialize in stealing taxpayers' identities in order to create fake tax returns that provide large refunds. The IRS is on the lookout for this kind of stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF), but you should be vigilant, too.

Thieves File a Tax Return in Your Name

Sophisticated man using a tablet

Stealing tax refunds doesn't require personal contact with victims. The thief obtains your name and Social Security number, then uses it to file an early tax return in your name, claiming a refund.

Often the first time you learn that your identity has been stolen for tax fraud is when you efile your own tax return online and it is rejected because someone has already filed a return using your Social Security number. Or if you mail your return, get a notice from the IRS telling you another return has been filed under your Social Security number.

Social Security Number Is the Key

Your Social Security number is the key to filing a tax return. If you omit the number or reverse a few digits on your tax return, the IRS rejects it out of hand. Just so, the SSN is also the key to tax identity fraud.

Criminals intent on committing stolen identity refund fraud need your Social Security number to file a return in your name. They have developed various fraudulent schemes to obtain the information, including:

  • Hacking data from agencies or businesses
  • Impersonating IRS agents in phone calls to you seeking your SSN
  • Pretending to be tax agents or bank officials in email requests to you for data

Preventing Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF)

Take steps to prevent tax refund fraud. The first and most important step to protect your refund is to keep your Social Security number private:

  • Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number or any other personal information over the phone, even if the caller claims to be from the IRS.
  • Ignore and delete e-mails seeking your Social Security number even if they claim to be from the IRS or credit card companies.

Remember that banks, financial institutions and tax authorities won't ask for this information in unexpected phone calls or emails. Moreover, they never threaten you with arrest or deportation if you refuse to provide the information they are asking for.

Dealing with Tax Identity Fraud

If you suspect you've been a victim of stolen identity tax refund fraud, the IRS is there to help you. It recommends that you take these steps immediately:

  • Answer any IRS notice you receive by calling the number provided on the notice or visiting
  • Fill out IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit and attach it to your tax return.
  • File tax returns and pay your taxes even as the fraud is being resolved.
  • File a complaint with the FTC at
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit records by phoning one of the three principal credit agencies.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • Filing Deadline: IRS filing deadline for tax year 2015 is April 18, 2016 (except for residents of Massachusetts or Maine, where the IRS filing deadline for tax year 2015 is April 19, 2016).
  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Free 1040EZ/A + Free State offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; Offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected 3/18/16. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for efiling state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected 3/18/16. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with efile and direct deposit; tax refund timeframes will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except the TurboTax Home & Business/QuickBooks Self-Employed bundle offers.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice service is available via phone for your toughest tax questions; fees may apply. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2014 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.