Identity theft is of particular concern during tax season, when thieves use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and claim refunds. Unfortunately, if this happens to you, you likely won’t know it until you file your tax return. The IRS will deny your return if someone has already filed one in your name. You’ll find out immediately if you file online, or in writing if you file by mail. Filing your taxes as early as possible can help reduce the chances of someone else filing a return in your name.
What should you do if you become a victim of this fraud? The first step is to alert the IRS. Complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039), attach it to your paper return, and mail it to the IRS according to instructions. The IRS recommends that you continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
To protect yourself and prevent your personal information from being used to commit other crimes, be sure to take some additional steps. Contact one of the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion – to place a fraud alert on your credit records, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov.