In the wake of tax season, the Internal Revenue Service has issued a statement warning Americans about how to spot and rectify identity theft that may affect their taxes. Identity theft can be a difficult crime to deal with, and can cost victims hours of time and even money to repair.
Here’s a look at what you need to know about identity theft and your taxes.
- The IRS does not initiate contact by email. If you receive an email from someone claiming to be the IRS, report it as spam and do not click on any links or provide any of your personal information.
- Pay attention to any snail mail contact. If the IRS contacts you by postal mail and indicates that multiple tax forms were filed in your name or that records show you received wages from an employer you don’t know, you should suspect possible identity theft.
- Contact the IRS. If and when you receive a notice from the IRS by mail that indicates unusual or suspicious activity, you should contact the IRS by responding to the address or number provided on the form you received.
- Check your credit report. If you’re interested in knowing more about whether your identity might be at risk, visit www.AnnualCeditReport.com to check your credit report for any suspicious activity. You are entitled to view a credit report from each of the three major reporting bureaus for free once per year.
It’s best to act quickly if you suspect identity theft related to your taxes, because if someone else filed a tax return in your name (or using your Social Security Number), that person could be eligible for a return – and you might not get one.
Online Resources to Protect Yourself
One of the best ways to combat identity theft is to prevent it. And, seeing as identity theft can cost serious money (and even triggers bankruptcy filings for some victims), it’s never too soon to start protecting yourself, your sensitive information and your money.
The Federal Trade Commission, the IRS and a number of other government organizations have teamed up to create the web site OnGuardOnline.gov, which offers information, tools and tips for staying safe in the digital world.
The site’s online resources include:
- Detailed instructions for dealing with identity theft (tax-related or otherwise);
- Pointers for keeping your information, accounts and passwords safe at WiFi hotspots;
- A number of games designed to educate users about various digital risks and how to protect against them;
- Informative videos that include expert interviews and how-tos designed to help people stay on top of digital and cyber safety; and
- Tools to use to protect yourself in your everyday life.