Are You Due a Tax Refund? ID Thieves May Get It Before You Do
Waiting for a tax refund? More Americans were victims of tax refund identity theft in the first six months of 2013 than in all of 2012. Identity thieves often target seniors, because many seniors aren't required to file a tax return, thereby lowering the chance of detection. In fact, most people never learn they're victims until after their identity has been stolen. Here's what to watch for:
- You may be blocked from filing your tax return electronically and get a message that a return has already been filed under your Social Security number.
- You may get a notice from the IRS saying that you filed more than one return, and that someone else already used your information.
- You may get notified that you owe taxes for the year, even when you were not legally required to file, or that you were paid wages from an employer where you don't work.
- You might even receive a notice stating that your state or federal benefits, like Medicaid, or Social Security disability payments were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting income under your Social Security number.
If you do become a victim of tax refund identity theft, the IRS will eventually send you your refund, but untangling the mess could take months of frustration. If you get a notice from the IRS, respond immediately by calling the number of the notice. Watch out for IRS impersonators, though. The IRS DOES NOT contact taxpayers by email. Emails purporting to be from the IRS that ask for your personal information or notify you of an "audit" may be a scam.
If you did not receive a notice, but suspect you've been a victim of identity theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245.
If you are a victim of identity theft, and have been in contact with the IRS, but the agency has not resolved your case, contact the constituent services staff member of your U.S. Congressman.
Here are some steps to take to protect yourself:
- File early in the season.
- Guard your personal information. Don’t carry your Social Security number (SSN) and protect your Medicare card like your SSN.
- Don't give a business your SSN just because they ask. Give it only when required, such as a bank credit application or to your tax preparer.
- Never give out your Social Security number to someone who calls on the phone, or requests it by mail or online. Only do so when you initiate a business transaction and know who you're dealing with.
- Do not save tax returns on the hard drive of your computer. Save them to a disk or removable hard drive.
To learn more see the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.