When someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and claim your refund, that’s tax-related identity theft. When someone uses your SSN to earn wages — which are then reported as your income — that’s employment-related tax identity theft. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is often the first to let you know your identity has been stolen when you:
In other cases, you may first learn of the fraud from some other unexpected source, like when you are turned down for a loan because a fake return was filed reporting an income less than what you actually earn.
REMEMBER THIS: IRS notices about tax-related identity theft are only sent by mail — not by email, text or social media messages that ask for your personal or financial information.
If someone uses your SSN to claim a tax refund before you do, IRS records will show that someone else has already filed and received a refund before you filed your return. If you filed by mail, the IRS will respond by mail to let you know that more than one refund was filed for you. If you tried to file electronically, the IRS will reject your tax return as a duplicate filing.
If someone uses your SSN to get a job and earn wages, the employer may report the fraudster’s income to the IRS using your SSN. When you file your tax return, those earnings will not be included, and IRS records will show you failed to report all of your income.
Taxpayers can file tax returns and claim refunds as soon as they receive W-2 or W-9 forms that show the income earned and the amount of taxes withheld. Employers have until January 31st after the tax year ends to issue W-2 forms.
However, employers have until the end of March to file that W-2 information with the IRS. Because tax refunds may be issued before employer W-2 information is received and verified by the IRS, fraudsters potentially have a two-month window to submit fake tax returns. And a refund can be sent to any address or account the fraudster specifies. All of this occurs without the taxpayer’s knowledge.
KNOW THIS: You do not need to make a lot of money or have a large refund due to be a target for tax-related ID theft. Tax ID scammers try to stay under IRS radar and therefore, they tend to keep their claims under $4,000.00.
If you are a victim of any type of identity theft, follow the steps recommended by the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint. If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax- related ID theft, the IRS recommends you:
REMEMBER THIS: The IRS will never call taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests, and the IRS will never ask you to wire money, pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card, or share your credit card information over the phone.
Consumers may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at:
Consumer Protection Unit
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form