The IRS, the states and the tax industry joined together in 2015 to enact new safeguards and take additional actions to combat tax-related identity theft. This partnership resulted in tremendous progress in protecting taxpayers from tax-related identity theft. But national and international criminal syndicates trafficking in stolen identities and fraud constantly evolve. Our fight is not yet won. If you become a victim, we are committed to resolving your case as quickly as possible.
What is tax-related identity theft?
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number, to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.
You may be unaware that this has happened until you receive an IRS letter saying we have identified a suspicious return using your SSN. Or, your attempt to e-File your tax return is rejected because a tax return using your SSN already has been filed.
Know the warning signs
Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if:
- You receive a letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return that you did not file.
- You are unable to e-File your tax return because of a duplicate SSN.
- You receive a tax transcript in the mail that you did not request.
- You receive an IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name, or an IRS notice that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled when you took no action.
- You receive an IRS notice that 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 suspect you are a victim of identity theft, continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
Steps to take if you become a victim
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.
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit (PDF), 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.
If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, contact us for specialized assistance at 1-800-908-4490. We have teams available to assist.
Review Identity Theft Victim Assistance: How It Works for more details.
The Federal Trade Commission also recommends 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:
- Consider a credit freeze instead of a fraud alert for even greater protections. See Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes explanation from FTC.
- Contact your financial institutions, and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.
About data breaches and your taxes
Not all data breaches or computer hacks result in tax-related identity theft. It’s important to know what type of personal information was stolen.
If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, keep in touch with the company to learn what it is doing to protect you and follow the “Steps for victims of identity theft.” Data breach victims should submit a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, only if your Social Security number has been compromised and your efile return was rejected as a duplicate or the IRS instructs you to file the form.
How to reduce your risk
Join efforts by the IRS, states and tax industry to protect your data. Taxes. Security. Together. We all have a role to play. Here's how you can help:
- 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 information and that of any dependents. Don’t routinely carry Social Security cards, and make sure your tax records are secure.
See Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers (PDF), to learn more.
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.
Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting.
See the main Identity Protection page for more information.