How to Avoid (and Recover From) Identity Theft

How to Avoid (and Recover From) Identity Theft
GUIDE
Robert Siciliano
By: Robert Siciliano
Posted: March 18, 2015
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Heaven forbid if some maggot steals your Social Security number and then gets a tax refund by filing a return using your number. Of course, the refund is fraudulent.

This is a form of tax-related identity theft, and these thieves aren’t dumb. They’ll file early in an attempt to beat the victim to the tax office.

If someone does this to you, the IRS will send you a snail mail notice that more than one tax return was filed under your SSN. At this point, you should suspect identity theft. Another tip-off that you’ve been victimized is if the IRS notice says you owe for more taxes or for a refund offset.

The letter may also show records of your employment with a company you’ve never worked for or state that there are collections running against you because you didn’t file a return for a particular year. Even just one of these bullet points screams ID theft.

Irs.gov recommends the following actions if you’ve had your ID stolen:

  • Contact the police immediately.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Complete the IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Close out any accounts that have been compromised or that you did not open.
  • Contact Experian, Equifax or TransUnion to put a fraud alert on all of your credit records.
  • Pay your taxes as you normally would.
  • Respond to IRS notices in proper fashion.
  • If after you’ve taken the above measures there’s still a problem, call 800-908-4490 (Identity Protection Specialized Unit).
IRS Phone Scam

Beware identity thieves posing as IRS workers over the phone. Don’t give over your personal information.

How can you prevent tax ID theft? Irs.gov recommends:

  • The phone is a poor medium through which to give out personal information like a credit card number. So is cyberspace. Be very discriminating when you decide to share personal information over the phone or online.
  • Have hardcopies made of all of your personal information, and then hide them.
  • Make sure your computer and smartphone are protected by antivirus/malware software that’s kept updated.
  • Check your credit report and SSA earnings annually.
  • Grind this into your head: The IRS never contacts people by email or phone asking for personal information! An email or phone call like this was sent by a cyber criminal.

The IRS warns that scammers prey on people during tax season because that’s the time people are on edge and gullible about their taxes. The IRS hates tax-related ID theft as much as the victims do and does everything possible to resolve these cases fast.

Photo credits: plio.pt, irs.com