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IRS warns of tax related identity theft ahead of the tax deadline.

Hackers are using personal information to file fraudulent returns.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number, to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. "Most taxpayers find out that they've been a victim of identity theft or tax related identity theft when they go for other taxes, because when they're going to file electronically, the system rejects them," Alejandra Castro, Alabama spokesperson for the IRS shares. "What does that mean? That means if someone may have used their Social Security number or one of their dependents, Social Security numbers to file a fraudulent tax return."

How To Protect Yourself from Tax Identity Theft

Taking steps to protect your personal information can help you avoid tax identity theft. Here’s what you can do to stay ahead of identity thieves. If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must file a paper return. 

"You have to go ahead and file, but you have to file by paper. The IRS will be investigating," Castro shares. "You have to fill out a form 14039. That is an identity theft affidavit which basically tells the IRS that you are the person that is on that tax return. The IRS will take some time to investigate and eventually you will get your refund back."

Protect documents that have personal information.

Keep your tax records and Social Security card in a safe place. When you decide to get rid of your tax records, shred them. If you don’t have a shredder, look for a local shred day. "Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Do not give it out to anyone unless you know that you have to, for example, are going to buy a car. Do the same with your kids' Social Security cards," Castro states.

Also, consider hiring as professional. "When you go pick a tax preparer, when you choose one, make sure that it's somebody reputable. A tax preparer will hold your most valuable information. He will have access to all your Social Security numbers and those of your loved ones. He will have information about your bank account. So you want to make sure that the person you hire is someone that could be trusted."

Protect your information from scammers online and on your phone.

If you use tax preparation software like TurboTax, TaxAct, or TaxSlayer, use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication offers extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. The additional credentials you need to log in to your account fall into two categories: something you have — like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app, or something you are — like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face. Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.

Don’t give your personal information to someone who calls, emails, or texts and says they’re with the IRS. It could be a scammer impersonating the IRS to steal your information or money. If you need to contact the IRS, call them at 1-800-829-1040.

What To Do If Someone Steals Your Tax Refund

If someone uses your Social Security number to file for a tax refund before you do, you’ll usually find out when you file your return with the IRS. " You have to report it to local law enforcement," Castro shares. "You have to contact the Federal Trade Commission and report it. You should do a credit freeze on all your three credit bureaus. And also, you should notify the IRS with an affidavit, which is 14039, to make sure that you're doing everything to protect yourself."

If you file by mail, the IRS will mail you a letter explaining that they received more than one return in your name. Follow the instructions in the letter.

If you try to submit your tax return online or through a tax preparer, the IRS will reject your tax return as a duplicate filing. If this happens, go to IdentityTheft.gov and report it. IdentityTheft.gov will create your

  • FTC Identity Theft Report
  • IRS Identity Theft Affidavit
  • Personal recovery plan

If you choose, IdentityTheft.gov will submit the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit to the IRS online so that the IRS can begin investigating your case. You can also get the Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) from irs.gov and submit it by mail.

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