Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft

 

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number (SSN) or other identifying information without your permission.  Often an identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to file a fraudulent tax return and claim a refund.  This generally occurs early in the filing season before the legitimate taxpayer has filed his or her return.  As a result, you and the IRS may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return and discover that two returns have been filed using the same SSN. You should be alert to possible identity theft if you receive an IRS notice that states that:

  •   More than one tax return for you was filed,
  •   You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return, or
  •   IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

If you receive a notice from IRS concerning possible identity theft, you should respond immediately.  If you think someone may have used your SSN fraudulently, notify IRS immediately by responding to the name and number printed on the notice.  You will also need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit on Form 14039.  If you are a victim of identity theft and have previously been contacted by the IRS, but have not achieved a satisfactory resolution, you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.  Even if your tax records have not currently been affected by identity theft, you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit if you think you might be at risk because your purse or wallet was lost or stolen, or you noticed unusual or questionable credit card activity.

You can minimize your chances of being a victim of identity theft by doing the following:

  •   Don’t carry your Social Security card or any document(s) with your SSN on it.
  •   Don’t give a business your SSN 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.

The IRS does 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 channels.  If you receive a suspicious email, you should report it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.  If you receive a suspicious contact by phone, fax or mail, you should call the IRS at 1-800-366-4484.   For more information on identity theft and how to prevent it, click on the following links: IRS.gov/identitytheft and IRS.gov/phishing

If you would like to discuss possible identity theft or how to prevent it, please contact your tax or business attorney at 937-223-1130 or Jsenney@pselaw.com

AND ONE MORE THING.   Identity theft and internet schemes do not only affect tax matters.  Internet crime schemes of all types continue to occur with regularity.  The Federal Trade Commission has issued advice on how to prevent identity theft and internet scams and what to do if it happens.  For more information check out the FTC’s Identity Theft page or use the FTC’s Complaint Assistant Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Please contact us with any questions you may have concerning this at 937-223-1130 or Jsenney@pselaw.com.

AUTHOR: Jeff Senney
jsenney@pselaw.com