If you suspect someone has filed a fraudulent tax return in your name, swift action can help you protect yourself against spiraling identity theft that can wreck havoc on your finances and credit. You might become suspicious that someone has filed taxes in your name if you fail to receive an anticipated refund, or you receive an unexpected tax bill from the IRS or a collection agency. You may also be alerted to potential fraud if you are denied credit, or you find unfamiliar accounts or inquiries on your credit report. These are all potential signs that someone has stolen your identity.
If you suspect that a tax return has been filed in your name, your best strategy for resolving this issue is to contact the IRS directly. IRS officials can review the current status of your tax return to determine whether or not someone has already filed a return using your identity.
Consult With the IRS
Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-2410 if you think someone has filed your taxes without your permission. Contacting the IRS and inquiring about the status of your tax return is the best way to determine whether a return has been filed without your consent. It’s important to do this quickly to protect yourself against ongoing fraud. Someone who files taxes in your name has access to your personal financial information, and can potentially use it for other fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining credit.
Contact the Police
If the IRS verifies that someone filed taxes in your name, or your tax return is rejected because the SSN has already been used, it makes you a victim of identity theft which is a crime that must be reported to the police. You will also have to file an Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039 with the IRS. Taking these steps will establish a record that your identify has been compromised. Your formal complaint will be helpful if charges are filed against the perpetrator, and it will be useful in notifying creditors that your personal financial information is being used without your consent.
Protect Your Credit
After you file your police report, contact your bank, creditors, the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Hotline hotline and credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Providing notification of your identity theft will ensure fraud alerts are put on your credit and financial accounts, as well as help you protect your Social Security number and avoid further damage to your finances.
Protect Your Finances
To guard against future identity theft that might allow someone to file a tax return in your name, use caution in how you handle sensitive personal and financial information in the future.
- Be careful when providing personal information like your Social Security number to businesses and individuals. Just because a company asks for your information doesn’t mean you have to provide it.
- Secure your Social Security card in a safe place in your home, or in a safe deposit box at your bank.
- Shred financial documents and statements before discarding them in trash or recycling bins.
- Use firewalls and virus protections on your computer and regularly change the passwords on your personal electronic devices to protect sensitive and confidential personal information.
- Monitor your credit report, your bank statements and other financial accounts to ensure you catch and report suspicious activity.
Monitor Future Tax Preparation
To ease the burden of tax preparation, you may opt to hire someone else to prepare and file your tax return. Since these people have access to confidential information, do your due diligence to make sure they are qualified for the role. Qualified tax preparers include attorneys, Certified Public Accountants and enrolled agents, retirement plan agents and actuaries. All should have a Tax Preparation Identification Number and be willing to sign your tax forms. Qualified agents will also use the IRS e-file system and provide you with a final copy of your submitted return.
Lisa McQuerrey has been an award-winning writer and author for more than 25 years. She specializes in business, finance, workplace/career and education. Publications she’s written for include Southwest Exchange and InBusiness Las Vegas.