Tax identity theft is when someone uses your Social Security number to steal your tax refund or for work. People often discover tax identity theft when they file their tax returns.
Taking steps to protect your personal information can help you avoid tax identity theft. Here’s what you can do to stay ahead of identity thieves.
Protect documents that have personal information
Keep your tax records and Social Security card in a safe place. When you decide to get rid of your tax records, shred them. If you don’t have a shredder, look for a local shred day.
Protect your information from scammers online and on your phone
If you use tax preparation software like TurboTax, TaxAct, or TaxSlayer, use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication offers extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. The additional credentials you need to log in to your account fall into two categories: something you have — like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app, or something you are — like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face. Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.
Don’t give your personal information to someone who calls, emails, or texts and says they’re with the IRS. It could be a scammer impersonating the IRS to steal your information or money. If you need to contact the IRS, call them at 1-800-829-1040.
If someone uses your Social Security number to file for a tax refund before you do, you’ll usually find out when you file your return with the IRS.
If you file by mail, the IRS will mail you a letter explaining that they received more than one return in your name. Follow the instructions in the letter.
If you try to submit your tax return online or through a tax preparer, the IRS will reject your tax return as a duplicate filing. If this happens, go to IdentityTheft.gov and report it. IdentityTheft.gov will create your
- FTC Identity Theft Report
- IRS Identity Theft Affidavit
- Personal recovery plan
If you choose, IdentityTheft.gov will submit the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit to the IRS online so that the IRS can begin investigating your case. You can also get the Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) from irs.gov and submit it by mail.
If someone uses your Social Security number for work, the employer may report that person’s income to the IRS using your Social Security number. When you file your tax return, you wouldn’t have included those earnings because they weren’t yours. But the IRS doesn’t know that. Their records will show you failed to report all your income.
The IRS will mail you a letter explaining you had earnings that you didn’t report. If you get a letter like this from the IRS, follow the instructions in the letter.
If you haven’t gotten a letter from the IRS but you think someone is using your Social Security number for work, review your Social Security work history. Create an account at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. If you find errors, contact your local Social Security Administration office.
Whether someone used your Social Security number to steal your tax refund or for work, go to IdentityTheft.gov/Steps to learn what other steps to take to limit the damage that identity theft can cause.