How to Prevent Identity Theft During Tax Season
Protect yourself from tax-related identity theft—and know what to do if you’re a victim.
Even if you already safeguard all personal information and shred unneeded financial documents, you can do a few more things to deter tax refund thieves:
- File early. Many tax scammers file early, hoping to beat you and collect your refund. If you can’t file early, obtain your Personal Identification Number (PIN) from the IRS to prevent anyone else from filing electronically under your name.
- Watch for late or irregular financial statements. If things seem off, call the sender to verify that bills are still being mailed to your current address.
- Check your credit report regularly. Each of the three credit bureaus offers a free credit report every 12 months. Use this opportunity to report any suspicious activity right away.
Know the Warning Signs
It can be hard to tell you’ve been hit by tax-related identity theft until it’s too late. Watch for these signs:
- Your tax return was rejected. Usually you receive an error message or a letter from the IRS indicating that a return was already filed for your Social Security number.
- Your refund never arrives. If you’re still waiting on a refund more than a month after filing, use the IRS’ free Where’s My Refund? tool.
- You receive a W-2 form from an employer you don’t recognize. This means someone has stolen your Social Security number and used it to apply for a job.
Handle the Aftermath
If you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft, here’s what you need to do:
- Report it immediately. If you believe someone used your Social Security number to file a tax return, notify the IRS.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit reports. An initial alert is active for 90 days, but you can file an extended alert that protects you for seven years.
- Create an identity theft report. File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and submit a police report.
- Freeze your credit. This prevents unauthorized accounts from being opened in your name.