Tax season can be an especially vulnerable time for victims of cybercrime who are targeted by what they believe to be the official IRS.
Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security Number to file a phony tax return and collect your refund. Most victims are unaware this has even happened until they try to file their legitimate tax return and it is rejected by the IRS as a legitimate filing.
It’s important to be vigilant year round and protect your personal information, but during tax season, be on high alert for scam related to tax filings. The FTC has a few tips for protecting your personal identity during tax season:
Monitor any notices you receive from the IRS. If you receive a notice from the IRS that you are not expecting, take it seriously and investigate. This could be an indication that someone has used your identity to file a fraudulent return in your name.
Ignore suspicious email messages, texts or phone calls. The IRS will contact you with an official letter. It does not initiate contact with taxpayers through email, text messages or over social media. Scammers, on the other hand, love to pretend that they’re from the IRS in attempts to steal your personal information. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a message that you receive, call the IRS taxpayer assistance center immediately at 800-829-1040.
Watch for e-file errors. If you attempt to e-file your taxes and receive an error, make sure that you read that message carefully. If the system tells you that someone has already filed a tax return under your Social Security number or that one of your dependents has been claimed on a different tax return, consider these red flags that someone may have stolen your identity.
Use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your accounts, making it more difficult for a cyberhacker who has accessed your password to steal your data and money. While it may seem like a hassle to set up and use it each time you log in, it will establish an additional roadblock for potential hackers.
Get an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS. The IRS allows you to set a six-digit PIN that further protects your taxpayer account. No one will be able to file taxes under your Social Security number without providing the PIN. The PIN must be reset annually.
Monitor your credit report. Regularly monitoring your credit report can help you detect any unauthorized changes or potential fraud early on. This can help you take prompt action to prevent further damage to your credit and minimize the impact of identity theft.
Act quickly, if your identity is stolen. Fill out IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, to report the theft. Make sure to keep a copy of the form for your records and follow up with the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The faster you act, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to lock down your identity and recover any stolen money.
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