Tips for dealing with identity theft and fraudulent tax returns

3/25/2015, 9 p.m.
Tax return and other tax-related identity theft is a growing epidemic throughout the nation. Taxpayers can encounter identity theft involving ...

Tax return and other tax-related identity theft is a growing epidemic throughout the nation. Taxpayers can encounter identity theft involving their tax returns in several ways. Often, identity thieves attempt to file fraudulent refund claims after having stolen a person’s Social Security number or forging a signature on another person’s tax documents.

The more you know about how to protect your identity and what to do if a problem arises, the harder it is for identity thieves to make you a victim. Bealert to possible identity theft if you receive a notice from the IRS or learn from your tax professional 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; IRS records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned or your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting an income change.

If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 as soon as possible.

Complete the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. Report incidents of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.ftc.gov or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261.

File a report with the local police.

Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus:

  • Equifax – www.equifax.com, 800-525-6285
  • Experian – www.experian.com, 888-397-3742
  • TransUnion – www.transunion.com, 800-680-7289

If another tax return was filed before yours, attach a signed, original, paper tax return with Form 14039.

You are still required, by law, to file a tax return even if you are a victim of fraud.

Note the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via e-mail, and the IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail correspondence.

How to reduce your risk

  • Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or any document with your SSN on it.
  • Don’t give a business your SSN just because they ask – only when absolutely necessary.
  • Protect your personal financial information at home and on your computer.
  • Check your credit report annually.
  • Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.
  • 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 the Internet unless you have either initiated the contact or are sure you know who is asking.