As if filing your tax return weren’t stressful enough, now you have to worry about tax fraud and someone stealing your identity. What is identity theft? In this case, it’s when someone files a fake tax return using your identity in order to claim an income tax refund.
Then your legit tax return gets rejected and you don’t get your refund. The IRS wants to alert college students about this scam because we are often at risk.
Tax-related identity theft
According to the IRS, “Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft,” tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.
You may be unaware that this has happened until you e-file your return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN. Or, the IRS may send you a letter saying they have identified a suspicious return using your SSN.
If your e-filed tax return got rejected because someone already filed a tax return using your SSN, you need to complete IRS Form 14039, an Identity Theft Affidavit. Mail it to the IRS with a copy of your Social Security card and your driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued identification card.
If you received an IRS notice, mail your information to the address listed. If you did not get an IRS notice, then send your information to:
Internal Revenue Service PO box 9039 Andover, MA 0180-0939
If you are owed an income tax refund on your tax return, you will get it eventually. Like anything else related to dealing with official government business, always keep copies of all correspondence. Also, be sure to respond to all correspondence from the IRS. If you need help you can call the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.
How did someone get your Social Security number in the first place? It could have been through a data breach. Any time an organization informs you that you might have been affected by a breach of their data, be sure to check on what data was compromised.
Here are steps you should take to protect your Social Security number:
- Don’t give anyone your Social Security number unless you absolutely have to
- Remember that the IRS and financial institutions will never contact you by text, email or phone
- Keep your Social Security card in a safe, locked place
- Shred such paperwork when you no longer need it
If your SSN was compromised and you think you may be the victim of tax-related ID theft, file a police report. You can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant.
Protect your credit
Be sure to contact one of the three credit bureaus so they can place a freeze on your account. It’s also a good idea to order a copy of your credit report from each credit bureau.
If someone is using your SSN to file fraudulent tax returns, they might also be opening credit accounts and charging purchases in your name. That could ruin your credit just when you’re trying to get yourself established as a financially responsible adult.
Your credit report is looked at by potential employers, lenders and landlords so it’s a big deal. A bad credit rating could also cost you more when buying insurance.
When you get a copy of your credit report, look for anything on it that appears to be inaccurate. An example would be a loan or credit card that you know you never applied for.