NOTE: The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
Tax Return Identity Theft is usually discovered when an electronically filed tax return is rejected as ‘duplicate submission’. There are more identity theft reports in Florida than in other states. According to information received while talking to the IRS Identity Theft office, most identity theft occurs with persons of retirement age.
Here is what is required by the thief to steal your identity:
v Your Social Security Number
v Your Tax Return Name (spelled exactly as on your SS card)
v Your date of birth
o This is easily obtained online for the total cost of $1 from various websites (very unfortunately).
v Identity thieves use their own address and YOUR information above.
In our office, we are working hard to protect your identity. Please make sure to use all of the resources we have in place to protect you:
v Do NOT e-mail your tax documents to me or anyone else.
v Use SecureFilePro to send paperwork with personal information to my office.
o Do NOT fax information with Social Security numbers to my office. Whenever possible, we will block-out all Social Security numbers, it is then safe to use fax or e-mail delivery.
v Do not fax or e-mail your tax returns to any banks or mortgage companies without using password protection on the file.
o If you need info sent to a bank or mortgage company and cannot apply a password yourself, please call and request our office to transmit the file ß we can apply passwords to e-mailed files for security. Usually we will give you the password and then you will supply the mortgage company with the password for additional security.
v Mail or personally deliver your tax documents to our office for security purposes
o Secure Dropbox is attached to column on left side of double doors at the office. This box is checked daily for any documents you might bring to the office outside of office hours.
If you are the victim of identity theft, the procedure typically necessary to start the IRS investigation and the processing of the tax return affected is:
v Electronically filed tax return is rejected for ‘duplicate submission’.
v Modify return if possible to enable filing (for example, remove dependent).
v File modified tax return
o If identity theft is related to taxpayer, then impossible to modify, see next step.
v File amended tax return with cover letter to IRS regarding identity theft
o Paper filing necessary.
o Extreme long wait for paper return is further complicated by identity theft – up to 180 days to process (6 months).
o Refund is delayed while identity theft is investigated by the IRS.
v Prepare IRS Form 14039
o Taxpayer will sign and send physical copy to IRS with copy of government IDs.
o This is separate filing from paper tax return filing above.
v WAIT for a long time to receive IRS resolution
o IRS does not know who is the thief (you or the other person who has filed using the same information), you must prove that you are you. This takes a lot of investigation by the IRS.
v IRS may assign Identity PIN
o If assigned, you will need this Identity PIN to electronically file your future returns. Do not divulge your Identity PIN to anyone other than your tax preparer.
FROM the IRS Website (January 2014):
The Internal Revenue Service is taking additional steps during the 2014 tax season to protect taxpayers and help victims of identity theft and refund fraud.
Stopping refund fraud related to identity theft is a top priority for the IRS. The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. The IRS has more than 3,000 employees working on identity theft cases. In addition, the IRS has trained more than 35,000 employees who work with taxpayers to recognize and provide assistance when identity theft occurs.
Taxpayers can encounter identity theft involving their tax returns in several ways. One instance is where identity thieves try filing fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, which has been stolen. Innocent taxpayers are victimized because their refunds are delayed.
The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is available at 1-800-908-4490.
Here are some tips to protect you from becoming a victim, and steps to take if you think someone may have filed a tax return using your name:
Tips to protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents with your SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification (ITIN) on it.
- Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
- Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Secure personal information in your home.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for internet accounts.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 (Mon – Fri 7 AM – 7 PM local time; Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).
Don't fall for common scams:
- An unexpected email purporting to be from the IRS is ALWAYS a scam. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive a scam email claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- An unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent, either threatening you with arrest or deportation if you fail to pay immediately, is a scam. In another variation, the caller requests your financial information in order to send you a refund. Report these calls and other IRS impersonation schemes to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or online at IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting.
- If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but does not begin with 'www.irs.gov', forward the link to email@example.com.
If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft
Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive a notice from the IRS or learn from your tax professional that:
- More than one tax return for you was filed;
- You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return;
- IRS records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned or
- Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting an income change.
If you receive a notice from IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice.
If you did not receive a notice but believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 right away so they can take steps to secure your tax account and match your SSN or ITIN.
Also, fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, (Form 14039). Please write legibly and follow the directions on the back of the form that relate to your specific circumstances.
In addition, the IRS recommends that you take additional steps with agencies outside the IRS:
- Report incidents of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261.
- File a report with the local police.
- Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus:
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Help if you have reported an identity theft case to the IRS and are waiting for your federal tax refund
The IRS is working to speed up and further streamline identity theft case resolution to help innocent taxpayers.
The IRS more than doubled the level of employees dedicated to working identity theft cases between 2011 and 2012. As the IRS enters the 2014 filing season, they now have more than 3,000 employees working on identity theft issues. Despite these efforts, the IRS continues to see a growing number of identity theft cases.
These are extremely complex cases to resolve, frequently touching on multiple issues and multiple tax years. Cases of resolving identity can be complicated by the thieves themselves calling in. Due to the complexity of the situation, this is a time-consuming process. Taxpayers are likely to see their refunds delayed for an extended period of time while the IRS takes the necessary actions to resolve the matter. A typical case can take about 180 days to resolve, and the IRS is working to reduce that time period.
While the identity theft cases are being worked, the IRS also reminds victims that they need to continue to file their tax returns during this period.
For victims of identity theft who have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution to their case, they can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit toll-free at 800-908-4490. If victims can’t get their issue resolved and are experiencing financial difficulties, contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service toll-free at 877-777-4778.