Tax day has passed this year, and if you were like the majority of taxpayers, your return was accepted with no issues. However, a small but growing number of taxpayers are seeing their returns rejected by the IRS because someone has already filed a return with their Social Security Number.
If this happens to you, don’t panic! There are several steps you can take to minimize the damage, as well as several more you can take to prevent this in the future.
If you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft, the first notification you’ll receive will either be an e-file rejection or a notice from the IRS saying they’ve identified a suspicious return using your SSN.
There are other warning signs as well – if the IRS contacts you regarding any of the following, you may have become a victim of identity theft:
- More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
- You owe additional tax, 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 wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.
If you in fact have become a victim, the Federal Trade Commission recommends taking these steps:
- File a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
- Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 1-800-766-0008
- Experian, www.Experian.com, 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 1-800-680-7289
- Contact your financial institutions, and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.
If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided or, if instructed, go to IDVerify.irs.gov.
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your e-filed return rejects because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
How to reduce your risk
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Use strong passwords.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card companies and even the IRS.
- Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure.
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to file as early as you can. Identity thieves will usually file early, hoping to get their fraudulent return accepted before the legitimate one is filed.
It’s important to remember that the IRS will not initiate contact with a taxpayer via e-mail, text, or social media. If you do receive a suspicious e-mail, text, or message, contact the IRS at 1-800-366-4484, or forward the e-mail to email@example.com. By being aware of the threats, and how to respond, you’ll be prepared to defend your information and your wallet.