The vast amount of information shared online during tax season makes it a haven for identity thieves, and they’re doing everything they can to take advantage of the opportunity! Here are several ways that identity thieves are targeting you, common signs of ID theft and steps to take if you become a victim.
How Identity Thieves Target You
- Impersonating the IRS. Thieves calling you and claiming to be the IRS will try and intimidate you into making an immediate payment using a gift card or wire service. Remember, the IRS will physically mail you a letter as a means of first contact. And the IRS will never call you to demand an immediate payment.
- Filing a fraudulent tax return. Identity thieves often try to file a tax return using your Social Security number before you do. So consider filing your tax return as quickly as you can to beat identity thieves at their own game.
- Phishing schemes. Be on the lookout for unsolicited emails, texts and social media posts that prompt you to share personal and financial information. These messages could also contain viruses, spyware or other malware that could infect your electronic devices.
Common signs of ID theft
Here are some of the common signs of identity theft according to the IRS:
- In early 2023, you receive a refund before filing your 2022 tax return.
- You receive a tax transcript you didn’t request from the IRS.
- A notice that someone created an IRS online account without your consent.
- You find out that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
- You receive tax documents from an employer you do not know.
Other signs of identity theft include:
- Unexplained withdrawals on bank statements.
- Mysterious credit card charges.
- Your credit report shows accounts you didn’t open.
- You are billed for services you didn’t use or receive calls about phantom debts.
What you can do
If you discover that you’re a victim of identity theft, consider taking the following action:
- Notify creditors and banks. Most credit card companies offer protections to cardholders affected by ID theft. You can generally avoid liability for unauthorized charges exceeding $50. But if your ATM or debit card is stolen, report the theft immediately to avoid dire consequences.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report. To avoid long-lasting impact, contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—to request a fraud alert. This alert covers all three of your credit files.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit identitytheft.gov or call 877-438-4338. The FTC will provide a recovery plan and offer updates if you set up an account on the website.
- Please call if you suspect any tax-related identity theft. If any of the previously mentioned signs of tax-related identity theft have happened to you, please call to schedule an appointment to discuss next steps.