It’s that time of year — tax time. It’s also a great time to get up to speed on tax-related scams. Here is one more way tax scammers might target you and what you can do about it:
Tax identity theft
This kind of identity theft happens when someone files a fake tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund. Tax identity theft also happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job. You find out about it when you get a letter from the IRS saying:
- more than one tax return was filed in your name, or
- IRS records show wages from an employer you don’t know
If you get a letter like this, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. You can find more about tax identity theft at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and irs.gov/identitytheft.So, what can you do about it? To lessen the chance you’ll be a victim:
- File your tax return early in the tax season, if you can, before identity thieves do.
- Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically. Don’t use unsecure, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots at places like coffee shops or a hotel lobby.
- Mail your tax return directly from the post office.
- Shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need.
- Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
- Know the IRS won’t contact you by telephone, email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will first contact you by mail.
- Don’t give out your Social Security number (SSN) or Medicare number unless necessary. Ask why it’s needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored.
- Get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
- If your SSN has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
- Check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.
Reprinted with permission. Source: United States Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov – not subject to copyright protection. 17 U.S.C. 403 – Make It a Season of Unhappy Returns for Tax ID Thieves
You can also create an IP Pin at IRS.gov. An IP Pin is “is a six-digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number.” It is automatically assigned to any taxpayer where the IRS has confirmed tax identity theft. The IRS has made the IP Pin available for voluntary adoption, even if you are not a victim of ID theft.
Here’s what you need to do to take advantage of this tool:
- Create an online account on IRS.gov.
- You will be asked to validate your identity. To find out what documents or information you will need to have available, check out the IRS information page on Secure Access: How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools.
- Renewal is not automatic: Once received, your IP Pin is good for only one year so it must be renewed annually. There is usually a renewal blackout period from November through January.
- If you lose your pin number, follow the steps on the Retrieve Your Identity Protection PIN page.
- If you prefer to file a paper application, wish to verify your identity in person, or read more details on How to get an IP Pin, follow the details outlined here.
Learn more at Identity Theft Information for Taxpayers. To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to bbb.org.