Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and collect your refund. You may not find out it has happened until you try to file your real tax return and the IRS rejects it as a duplicate filing.
IRS imposters are scammers who pretend they are calling from the IRS. They claim you owe taxes and demand that you pay right now, usually with a gift card or prepaid debit card. They threaten you will be arrested or face other bad consequences, if you do not pay. However, it is all a lie. If you send the money, it is gone.
To start fighting tax identity theft right away, remember:
- Protect your SSN throughout the year. Do not give it out unless there is a good reason and you are absolutely sure who you are giving it to.
- File your tax return as early in the tax season as you can.
- Use a secure internet connection, if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office.
- Research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
- Check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure no one has opened a new account in your name.
Check out the Federal Trade Commission’s “IRS Imposter Scams” infographic.