In December 2020, the Internal Revenue Service rolled out an Identity Protection Pin opt-in program to help prevent taxpayer identity theft. Rather than using your social security number to file taxes, exposing yourself to possible identity theft and fraud, this secure six-digit number can help the IRS verify your identity, accept and track your tax return, and issue your refund.
The window to apply for an identity protection personal identification number opens in mid-January and closes in mid-November. It can only be used for the following tax year. So if you apply for a PIN now, you can use it when you file your 2021 taxes in 2022.
Who Can Get an IP Pin
You may qualify to use an IP pin to file your taxes if you have a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), according to the IRS.gov FAQs page about the IP pin program.
You must be able to verify some important financial information that appears on your credit reports to get a PIN. You may also be able to verify your identity by answering a series of questions over the phone. Alternatively, you can obtain an IP Pin if you have two forms of picture identification and can attend an in-person appointment at a Taxpayer Assistance Center.
People who have been confirmed victims of identity theft with tax account issues that have been resolved automatically receive a DP01A notice from the IRS with a new IP Pin each year.
For everyone else, this is an opt-in program, so you don’t have to claim your pin if you’d prefer to file using your SSN or ITIN.
A secondary taxpayer, spouse or dependent can also qualify for an IP pin as long as they have the proper information for identity verification and authentication.
How to Claim Your IP Pin From the IRS
Claiming your IP pin from the IRS is easy. First, make sure you’re registered through the IRS website. If you’ve ever used an e-file program for your taxes, you have an account. Then, click “Get an IP Pin” on the IRS website.
Read More: When Can You Get That Tax Refund?
As part of the the verification process, the IRS.gov website says you need to have information available such as:
- your email address;
- SSN or ITIN;
- tax filing status;
- mailing address;
- one financial account number linked to your name.
You also need access to a mobile phone linked to your name and the ability to receive text messages. Alternatively, you can receive an activation code by mail.
Qualified financial accounts include:
- Visa, Mastercard, or Discover credit card;
- student loan account;
- mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit (HELOC);
- auto loan.
If you don’t have the information required for authentication and you make $72,000 or less annually, you can file form 15227. You need a valid SSN or ITIN and access to a telephone to answer a series of questions. Alternatively, you can visit a Tax Assistance Center with two forms of photo ID.
The Importance of Using the IP Pin Program to File Your Taxes
The IRS makes it easy for individuals to claim their IP pin. By keeping the pin secure, taxpayers can reduce the risk of identity theft. You should only provide your IP pin to your tax preparer. The IRS will never ask for your IP pin, and you should never provide it to anyone claiming to be an IRS representative.
By using an IP pin to file your taxes, it prevents anyone from filing fraudulent tax returns using your social security number. If you have an IP pin, you must use it to file taxes. If you enter the incorrect pin, your tax return will be returned, and you will have to e-file again.
If you lost your pin, you can obtain one by filling out a “Get an IP Pin” application, according to the IRS website.
How the IP Pin Program Can Help Prevent Tax-Related Identity Theft
Tax-related identity theft was listed in 2019 on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. In tax-related identity theft, someone can use your SSN or ITIN to file fraudulent federal income tax returns in your name and claim a refund.
The IRS has taken steps to prevent identity theft. The numbers dropped from 883,000 to 597,000 between 2016 and 2017, a 32 percent decrease. The IP pin program should help reduce fraud even further.
Other Ways to Protect Against Tax-Related Identity Theft and Scams
Identity theft and fraud remains a huge problem for many Americans. The Consumer Sentinel Network, which is maintained by the Federal Trade Commission, found that there were 1.7 million fraud-related cases in 2019, and 651,000 identity theft complaints. Consumers lost more than $1.9 billion in fraud that year.
The IP Pin program is just one way the IRS is reducing the number of fraudulent federal income tax returns being submitted. It’s important to safeguard your identity, your financial accounts, and your social security number in other ways, too.
For instance, ensure the software you use to e-file your taxes is secure, and that the network you’re connected to when you e-file is also secured and password protected. You should never file taxes from a public network.
Be smart when it comes to giving out personal information. The IRS communicates with taxpayers via mail and certified mail. They will not text you or email asking for sensitive information, such as your IP Pin or SSN. The IRS will also never call asking for information. If you phone the IRS, make sure you are calling the number on your tax bill or a number you found on the IRS.gov website.
Be aware of scams and set up your identity protection pin now so you can file next year’s tax returns with added peace of mind.
- IRS.gov: Identity Protection Pin Program Will Soon Be Available to Taxpayers Nationwide
- IRS.gov: Secure Access: How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools
- IRS.gov: Get An Identity Protection Pin
- IRS.gov: Identity Theft Remains on Dirty Dozen List Despite Progress
- Insurance Information Institute: Facts and Statistics: Identity Theft and Cybercrime
- Experian. “The Many Different Forms of Identity Theft.” Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.
- Equifax. “Types of Identity Theft.” Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.
- Experian. “What Is Social Security Fraud?” Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.
- FBI. “FBI Sees Spike in Fraudulent Unemployment Insurance Claims Filed Using Stolen Identities.” Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.
- USA.gov. “Identity Theft.” Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.
- FTC. "Identity Theft Recovery Steps." Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.
Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer, content strategist, and founder of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. A seasoned finance writer, her work has appeared on Forbes, Bankrate, Lending Tree, Solvable, Moneycrashers, and many other personal finance sites, including the award-winning Chase News & Stories portal. With more than 20 years editorial experience, Dawn seeks to take complex concepts and simplify them for today's busy readers. Whether she is writing about taxes or technology, her goal is always to educate, inform, and entertain.