Financial Fundamentals Blog

Tax-Related Identity Theft: Common Signs You Might be a Victim

A man filling out their tax forms

Ahhh, Tax Season. The magical time of year that turns legions of Americans into procrastinators and provides countless sleepless nights for tax professionals. It’s also prime time to find out you might be the victim of identity theft.

Though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported a decline in confirmed tax-related identity theft, it’s still the second most common form. Here are some signs that you might be a victim:

  • Your e-file is rejected. First, because anyone can make a mistake, review your filing – specifically your social security number - to make sure it’s accurate. If you have children of tax-paying age in college, check with them to make sure they didn’t already file and claim themselves. If everything is correct, the IRS states that you should complete your tax return as a paper filing; complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit; attach it to your paper tax return; and mail all of it to the IRS.
  • You’re asked by the IRS to verify your tax return. The IRS holds suspicious tax returns for verification. You will receive a letter in the mail asking you to confirm that you filed with your name and social security number. If you haven’t filed yet, follow the instructions in the letter ASAP. The IRS does not contact taxpayers electronically for personal information, including via email, text messaging or social media, nor do they call taxpayers threatening lawsuits or arrests. Receiving such communication is another indicator that a fraudster is looking for information.
  • You receive information from an employer that isn’t – and never was – yours. This happens when an identity thief uses your social security number and a false employer for whom you’ve never worked in an attempt to collect your tax return. It can often mean that the identity thief has had your personal information for quite some time. 
  • You’ve received a refund in your name that was not due to you. Whether received electronically, as a paper check via mail, or as a reloadable, pre-paid debit card, these funds must be returned. The IRS has specific instructions for returning the refund.

As with any time you suspect that you are an identity theft victim, report it to the FTC at, contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your accounts, and close any accounts that were not opened by you. You must also continue to file your tax return.

While filing your tax return early will keep identity thieves from taking your tax refund, it doesn’t mean you’re immune to identity theft. Thieves need just a bit of personal information to steal your identity. Remember to follow some security best practices to help safeguard your information.

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