Identity theft remains one of the most widespread threats to everyday people in the United States today. But while many people take steps to protect their credit card numbers, they may not know what to do about tax-related identity theft – or how it happens.
One of the ways identity thieves take advantage of personal information is by filing fraudulent tax returns. Using someone’s Social Security Number, these thieves can intercept tax refunds and cause problems with the IRS.
What can a taxpayer do about possible identity theft? Follow these tips:
Watch for these warning signs
In recent years, the IRS implemented new safeguards to fight back against identity theft. According to the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, your information may be compromised if:
- You learn that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security Number
- The IRS contacts you about additional taxes you need to pay, or an additional refund
- Records show you were paid by an employer for whom you have never worked
The IRS recommends filing your return and paying the applicable taxes, even if you suspect someone stole your identity. Once you file your return, you can make a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.
File a complaint with the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for handling reports of identity theft. If you encountered any of the above warning signs while filing your taxes, file a complaint as soon as possible. The FTC also suggests placing a fraud alert on your credit records and contacting your bank. If someone opened a bank account or line of credit using your information, your financial institution can help you close those accounts.
Seek professional advice
Dealing with the IRS and other government agencies can overwhelm anyone. Filling out the necessary forms and contacting the right people is often a stressful and time-consuming endeavor. But remember: you don’t have to handle everything alone. Contact a professional experienced in tax-related identity theft to learn how to get through this process with your sanity intact.