TAX IDENTITY THEFT SURVIVAL GUIDE
What is tax identity theft?
Tax identity theft occurs when an identity thief uses a taxpayer’s stolen identity to file a fraudulent return and claim the identity theft victim’s tax refund. The identity thief will use a stolen Social Security number and consumer information to file a forged tax return early in the filing season before the victim files. The scammer then receives the victim’s refund before the IRS processes the real filing.
With paperless e-filing, the scam is easier than ever before. Thieves invent phony wages or other income, submit the information electronically, and receive the fraudulent refund via mail or direct deposit. By the time the fraud is realized, the thief has cashed the refund check or withdrawn it from the bank.
What else could be happening?
Consumers who are victims of tax identity theft may also experience other types of identity theft such as insurance identity theft, financial identity theft, synthetic identity theft, and medical identity theft. Consumers should remain vigilant about any signs of fraud and check their accounts and records frequently.
Identity Theft/Data Security Preventive Checklist
Identity Theft/Data Security Repair Checklist
Identity Theft Resource Guide
How do I know if I am a victim of tax identity theft?
Signs consumers have become a victim of a fraudulent tax filing include:
- More than one tax return was filed and your return was rejected.
- Consumers have a balance due, refund offset, or have had collection actions taken against them.
- IRS records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned.
- If someone uses your SSN to get a job, the employer may report that person’s income to the IRS using your SSN. IRS records will show you failed to report all your income. The agency will send you a notice or letter saying you have wages you didn’t report.
- State or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency involved received information reporting an income change.
- An unexpected letter arrives from the IRS or Missouri Department of Revenue which does not appear to apply to you.
What can I do if I am a victim of tax identity theft?
Attorney General Hawley recommends that Missouri consumers who have become a victim of this fraud take these steps:
- Report it to the Internal Revenue Service at 800-908-4490. Consumers will need to complete the form 14039 and return it to the IRS.
- Missourians should also report the fraud to the Missouri Department of Revenue at 573-751-3505 or by email.
- The Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline is available to assist consumers in reporting identity theft. Missourians can reach the hotline at 800-392-8222 or file a report online.
- Tips for protecting against identity theft are available online.
- Consumers with questions about whether a contact from the IRS is authentic should call the IRS toll-free number (1-800-829-1040) to confirm.
- Keep copies of all your records.
- Check your credit reports and other records for accuracy. Check your banking records daily or weekly.
- Report the improper use of your Social Security number to the Social Security Administration at their fraud hotline (1-800-269-0271).
Are there other scams associated with paying taxes?
- You may receive telephone calls or emails from imposters claiming to collect on taxes owed. The IRS does not initially email or telephone to collect tax amounts owed.
- Consumers receive advertisements from scammers offering relief from tax liens, wage garnishments, levies, or payments. Consumers are asked to pay fees up-front for services that are not provided.
- Consumers are offered rebates for stimulus plans from imposters claiming to be government representatives.
- Consumers may be offered a way to obtain their refund from someone other than the state or federal government. Many scammers trick people into paying for services such as refund “processing” for a fee.
- Other types of tax fraud, such as fraudulent tax preparer scams, should also be reported to the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline and to the IRS.
What can I do to protect myself?
Consumers can take these steps to help prevent tax identity theft:
- File taxes early.
- Apply for an Electronic Filing PIN number from the IRS and register with the IRS. This may reduce your chances that someone else will electronically file using your information.
- Watch your mail carefully in January and February for mailed W-2 forms and 1099 forms. If traveling during the months when these arrive by mail, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check your mail while you are away.
- Do not open emails that come from someone you do not know. Beware of phony websites that are not real. Phony web sites may look real at first, but fake sites have tell-tale signs. They may have misspelled words, blurry graphics, and logos that are not quite right.
- Have returns prepared by qualified tax preparation firms and verify with the preparer that any electronic filing was accepted. If using an online service, maintain your records and watch for anything unusual during filing.
- Do not confirm personal information in email or over the telephone unless you made contact with someone known to you.
- If someone with whom you do business asks for your Social Security number, ask why it is needed. It may be that the entity does not need to have it in order to do business with you.
- Do not provide your bank account information in response to an email. Provide it over the telephone only if you want to use it with a business you are you certain that you know and trust.
- Protect your personal computer with firewalls, current and effective anti-virus software, and security patches or updates. Regularly change your passwords and use passwords that would be hard for someone else to guess.