Despite numerous government attempts to protect consumers, IRS identity theft still affects thousands of Americans each year. Most people don’t even realize their Social Security information has been used to file a tax return, until they receive a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. Many consumers are aware that stolen identities are used to purchase goods and services, but don’t realize thieves also apply for fraudulent refunds through the IRS as well.
Indications You Might Be A Victim Of IRS Identity Theft
- You receive a letter from the IRS stating that you have filed more than one income tax return.
- You receive a letter from the IRS indicating that someone with the same identifying information, including Social Security Number has previously filed a tax return for the tax year.
- You have collection action taken against you, a balance due, or a refund due for a tax year in which you did not file a return.
- You receive a statement of wages from an employer you did not work for.
- You receive a letter from the IRS indicating that you received more wages than you actually earned while employed.
- Your benefits from the state or federal government have been eliminated or reduced because the agency has received erroneous information that your income has changed.
- Your tax refund has been significantly delayed.
IRS Prevention From Identity Theft
The IRS has recently put a number of measures in place to help identify possible identity theft, and further assist consumers.
- Screening filters have been put in place to help spot false tax returns.
- Supplementary verification process for previous victims of IRS theft.
- Personal correspondence between previous identity theft victims and IRS before processing tax returns.
IRS Support For Consumers And Victims Of Identity Theft
- A special criminal investigation fraud unit that investigates identity theft has been put into place by the agency.
- Enhanced employee training for victim assistance and faster case resolution for a stolen identity and identity theft reviews have been developed.
- The IRS has created an Identity Protection Specialized Unit with a hotline for consumers to report identity theft, 1-800-908-4490 or if they suspect they have been a victim of any type of identity theft that does not fit the identity theft definition for tax fraud, irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection.
- Supplemental employee staffing of 3000 people to handle identity theft-related cases.
- Additional training pertaining to id theft for 35,000 current employees who handle general taxpayer questions and issues.
- Task force to identify and eliminate false IRS websites and educate the pubic on how to report identity theft.
- Additional public outreach and education regarding identity theft in the form of informational articles, IRS publications and website updates have been provided. IRS publications, articles, radio PSA’s, fact sheets, and YouTube videos have also helped the agency get the word out about identity theft.
IRS Tips For Taxpayers For Best Identity Theft Protection
How To Prevent Identity Theft
- Only give personal information over the phone or through email if you have initiated contact with the other party first.
- Never give your Social Security Number or ITIN number to a business or company you have not previously done business with or have not verified as legitimate. Even then, inquire why your personal identifying information is required.
- Secure your personal information in a safe protected place in your home or office.
- Identity theft protection reviews are recommended. Check your credit report at least once every 12 months to monitor for changes or accounts that aren’t yours.
- Secure information stored in computers using firewalls and anti-virus protection. Change passwords for Internet use frequently and update security patches regularly.
- Never carry your Social Security card or documents containing your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) with you.
Identity theft in this country affects consumers in numerous ways. Where once, thieves were content to steal credit account numbers to charge merchandise, they now look for bigger and better payoffs through income tax refunds and medical benefits. While state and federal agencies work to provide consumer education for public awareness about identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service has taken further steps to prevent IRS tax fraud through increased security measures and systems as well.