Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information without your permission. While this can include credit cards, banking information, and passwords, it’s your Social Security number that’s the biggest IRS-related identity theft problem.
An estimated 4 to 5 million taxpayers are currently affected by identity theft with the IRS. When their Social Security numbers are stolen by an identity thief, the thief files for a tax refund early in the season. When you go to file your taxes, you receive a notice that you have already filed.
Here are some tips to prevent it from happening to you:
- Do not answer any emails from the IRS. The IRS does not send emails or text messages. If you receive suspicious IRS emails, report them to the IRS at email@example.com.
- Do not carry your Social Security number with you. Keep it in a secure location.
- Protect your computers with firewalls and anti-spam software.
- Change passwords for internet accounts.
- Do not give personal information on the phone or through email unless you are absolutely sure who you are giving it to.
- Shred all documents containing personal information.
- Check your credit report annually.
If you do happen to become a victim of this crime, here’s what you should do:
- If the IRS sends you a notice, respond immediately. Follow the instructions on the notice.
- File an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039).
- Call the IRS Identity Theft Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
- Request an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS if you’ve received a letter inviting you to opt-in to the program. An IP PIN is a 6-digit number assigned to a taxpayer to help prevent the misuse of the Social Security number on fraudulent tax returns.
- If your purse or wallet containing personal information is stolen, contact all credit cards to cancel.
- Report the theft to the police department.
- Contact the credit bureaus about a fraud alert at the following numbers:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
- If your Social Security number has been stolen, notify the Social Security office of Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271.
- The Federal Trade Commission has a toll-free Identification Theft helpline at 1-877-438-4338 or visit their website: www.ftc.gov.
We certainly hope it doesn’t happen to any of our clients, but if it does, this handy checklist will help you through it.