Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number, to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund, or uses your social security number for employment purposes, among other events.
The IRS has a guide to help when a taxpayer has identity theft issues.
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must file a paper return.
Know the Signs of Identity Theft
You may not know you’re a victim of identity theft until you’re notified by the IRS of a possible issue with your return.
The IRS never:
- Initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text or social media to request personal or financial information
- Calls taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests
- Calls, emails or texts to request taxpayers’ Identity Protection PINs
Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if:
- You get a letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return that you did not file.
- You can’t e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security number (a return was already filed using your social security number).
- You get a tax transcript in the mail that you did not request.
- You get an IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name.
- You get an IRS notice that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled when you took no action.
- You get an IRS notice that you owe additional tax or refund offset, or that you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
- IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer you didn’t work for.
- You’ve been assigned an Employer Identification Number, but you did not request an EIN.
There are steps you can take if your Social Security number or other personal information is compromised.
Tax related identity theft
If your Social Security number is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these actions:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice: Call the number provided.
- If your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your Social Security number, or if the IRS instructs you to do so, complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit PDF. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail your return according to instructions.
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov for steps you should take right away to protect yourself and your financial accounts.
- See Identity Theft Victim Assistance: How It Works for more information about how the IRS can help you.
- If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, contact the IRS for specialized assistance at 800-908-4490, where the IRS has teams standing by to help you.
If you believe someone has filed a fraudulent return in your name, you can get a copy of the return. See Instructions for Requesting a Copy of Fraudulent Returns.
If you e-file your tax return and get a message telling you that a dependent on your return has been claimed on another tax return or their own, or if you receive an IRS Notice CP87A, you’ll need to find out why someone else claimed your dependent. Learn more at What to Do When Someone Fraudulently Claims Your Dependent.
Employment-Related Identity Theft
If you believe someone has been using your Social Security number for employment purposes (as opposed to filing fraudulent tax returns for refunds in your name) see the IRS Guide to Employment-Related Identity Theft.
You may also want to contact the several credit reporting bureaus to request an annual free copy of your credit report to see what it shows, and put a freeze on your account with each credit reporting agency.