What Consumers Should Know About Tax-Related Identity Theft

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Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses the Social Security number of another person to file a tax return to fraudulently receive a tax refund or gain employment. It can also happen if someone claims your child as a dependent on a tax return.

What steps can I take to avoid becoming a victim of tax-related identity theft?

Step 1: Protect your personal information

  • Securely store files and documents containing your Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in your home.
  • Install anti-virus software and firewalls on your computer and keep them up to date.
  • Shred all documents containing personal information that are no longer needed for tax filing after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) retention period of no more than seven years before disposing of them.
  • Ask why your personal information is needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored.
  • Make sure that there are no alternative identifiers that could be used and do not give out your personal information unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Be aware of predators that send phony emails and messages claiming to come from the IRS.
    • Keep in mind that the IRS will typically first initiate contact with a taxpayer concerning a tax issue via mail. The IRS does not request personal or financial information through email, text or social media. The IRS will not ask you to pay your taxes with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer or ask for your credit card number over the phone.
    • The IRS will not ask for PIN numbers, passwords, or similar confidential information for access to you credit card, bank, or other financial accounts.

Step 2:  File early

  • File your tax return early in the tax season before identity thieves are able to.
    • Mail it directly from the post office or other secure location.  Do not leave it in your mailbox for pickup by your letter carrier. Do not allow a tax preparer to mail your return.
    • Use secure internet connection if filing electronically (no public Wi-Fi hotspots).

How would I know that I am a victim of tax-related identity theft? 

Evidence of tax-related identity theft could include:

  • You find you have a balance due, refund offset or having had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • You receive letters from the IRS stating that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
  • If IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you, your Social Security number was likely used by someone to obtain employment.
  • Your child receives a notice from the IRS for unpaid taxes even though he or she has never earned income
  • You notice suspicious accounts that have been opened in your name on your credit report.

If you believe that your Social Security number (or your child’s) has been compromised:

  • Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
  • If you think your child’s information may be at risk, you can ask the IRS to monitor your child’s Social Security number for suspicious activity.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your child’s record.

What should I do if I am a victim of tax-related identity theft?

If you think someone used your SSN for a tax refund or a job:

  • File a police report with the local police and keep a copy for your records.
  • Contact the IRS immediately.
    • Call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit:  1-800-908-4490
    • Send:
      • a copy of your police report (or an IRS Id Theft Affidavit Form 14039)
      • proof of your identity (e.g., copy of social security card, driver’s license, or passport)
    • Keep records:
      • Record the dates you made the calls or sent letters
      • Keep copies of letters in your files.
  • For residents of New York:  Contact the NYS Department of Tax and Finance (DTF) at (518) 457-5181.
    • Send:
      • a copy of a government issued ID (e.g., driver's license, U.S. passport, U.S. military ID card, or other valid identification card issued by a state or federal agency)
      • a copy of NYS Form DTF-275 (Identity Theft Declaration), explaining why you believe you are a victim of identity theft
      • verification of your address for the tax year in question (e.g. a copy of a utility bill, lease agreement, or bank statement)
      • a copy of the notice you received from DTF (if you received one)
    • Fax documents to:  (518) 435-2990 (Attn: Identity Theft)  or
    • Mail documents to:

                                NYS Assessment Receivables
                                Attn: Identity Theft
                                PO Box 4128
                                Binghamton NY 13902-4128

  • Report incidents of identity theft to the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261.

Because the criminal may also attempt to use your personal information to commit other fraud beyond tax identity fraud, limit the potential damage from identity theft by:

  • Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus.

                      EQUIFAX:  1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com

                      EXPERIAN
: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com

                      TRANSUNION
: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com

  • Order copies of your credit report and check for suspicious activity.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your record.