As part of our ongoing series detailing the IRS’ annual “Dirty Dozen” most common tax scams to avoid during tax season, next on the list is identity theft.
Fighting identity theft is a top priority and an ongoing battle for the IRS, as identity thieves continue to create new ways of stealing personal information and using it for their gain. The agency is taking new steps and strong actions to not only protect taxpayers and help victims of identity theft and refund fraud, but to also aggressively pursue the criminals that file fraudulent returns using someone else’s identity.
So, how would you or your client know that they were victims of identity theft? Most taxpayers find out that there is a problem when they receive a letter for the IRS stating that they filed more than one return or had earned wages from an unknown employer (which is a sign that someone used your client’s Social Security number to get a job). If your client gets such a notice, ask them to immediately contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245.
Remind your clients that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If your client receives such a communication, they should not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an effort to help victims of identity theft, the IRS has issued approximately 1.5 million Identity Protection PINs (IP PINs), which is a unique six-digit number assigned to victims with resolved cases for use when filing their federal tax return. The IP PIN allows these individuals to avoid delays in filing returns and receiving refunds.
In addition, the IRS offers the following tips as ways to protect against becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
- Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Secure personal information in your home.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know whom you are dealing with.
Editor’s Note: This is post three of a 12-part series covering the IRS “Dirty Dozen” tax scams.