Tax season is getting into full swing and that means tax identity thieves are coming out of the woodwork. January 25-29, 2021 is officially Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, a designation started by the Federal Trade Commission. The week is designed to help you learn how to protect yourself and help you know what to do if you or someone you know is victimized.
What is Tax Identity Theft?
Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a fake tax return and collect any refund you may be owed. They may also steal your SSN to get a job. Sadly, most victims discover the fraud when they try to file their real tax returns and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rejects them for being duplicate filings.
How do Thieves Get Your Info?
Scammers will go to great lengths to find out your SSN and the elderly are a favorite target. They may call and pretend they are from the IRS or Social Security Administration and say they need to verify your account in hopes you will give them your Social Security Number. They may also go through trash in hopes of finding unshredded documents with your personal information and SSN.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim
You can take steps to outwit these scammers:
- Protect your SSN and don’t give it out unless there’s a good reason and you’re sure you know exactly who you are giving it to.
- File your tax return as early in the tax season as you can – before criminals act.
- If you file electronically, use a secure internet connection or mail your tax return only at the post office. Do not put it in an unsecure mailbox for pickup by your mail carrier.
- Research all tax preparers carefully before handing over your SSN.
- Always shred documents with personal information on them.
- Check your credit report at least once a year for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
- Check your Social Security contributions to see if there are deposits from jobs you did not hold.
What if you find fraud?
If your tax return is rejected for being a duplicate or you become aware by checking your credit report that your SSN has been stolen, you should contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. You can also visit IdentityTheft.gov.
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, the IRS advises you to continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return through a paper return.
Guard your identity closely, shred your documents and monitor your credit reports closely to ensure you don’t become a victim.