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How to Protect Yourself From Tax Refund Scammers

How to Protect Yourself From Tax Refund Scammers

Identity theft is not limited to criminals opening credit cards and collecting debts in your name - your return is also at risk. While the IRS works hard to combat fraudulent returns, you are the first line of defense in protecting your data and identity.

Don't mistake acting only during tax season - be vigilant throughout the year to protect your personal information. So that scammers won't have the information they need to file a false tax return and gain access to your money at tax time. Do your best to protect your refund against identity theft.

How to Avoid Tax Refund Fraud

Criminals are busy finding ways to discover and exploit your personal information, but you can help prevent fraudulent tax returns on your behalf. Here are some steps to take to help you protect your identity and your tax refund:

  1. Do not share your financial or personal information with anyone claiming to work with the IRS. The caller may threaten to deport or arrest you, but don't be scared. Instead, you should report these calls to the IRS by calling 800-366-4484 or the IRS Phishing Scam Reporting site.

  2. Don't ignore the tax documents you receive. A W-2 from an employer you did not work for could indicate that your identity has been stolen.

  3. Don't wait until the last minute. Instead, file your tax return as soon as possible so offenders can't file one first. To help you file your return as soon as possible, review the previous year's statements, create a checklist, and list all the documents you need to file. Plus, keep receipts throughout the year so that they are readily available when needed.

  4. Never respond to a text, email, or social media contact claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS contacts taxpayers only by mail. Please send any suspicious or fraudulent contact to phishing@irs.gov.

  5. Protect your personally identifiable information throughout the year. Always protect your social security number and other personal information to minimize the risk of unauthorized access. Use strong passwords and security software when online, and never click on suspicious links or downloads. Also, learn about phishing scams and how to avoid them.

  6. Regularly check your credit report for fraudulent activity. Although you can receive a free copy of every credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com each year, you can also sign up for a credit monitoring service. Credit card companies sometimes offer this type of service to cardholders as an added benefit.

  7. Obtain an Identity Protection PIN. An Identity PIN, also known as an IP PIN, is a six-digit number assigned to you by the IRS to prevent scammers from using your Social Security number in a false tax return. To obtain an IP PIN, you will need to determine your eligibility: You must have received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service inviting you to opt-in, or you must have filed a tax return within the last year with an address in California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, District of Columbia, Michigan, Nevada, Illinois, Maryland, or Rhode Island. To obtain the IP PIN, you will need to go through the IRS secure login process to verify your identity.

How to quickly recover from a stolen tax refund

It is important to act quickly if you are the victim of tax identity theft. Follow these steps to report tax fraud:

  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Statement, to report that your tax return was rejected because of a duplicate tax return with your social security number.

  • Consider submitting a credit security freeze to each major credit bureau. Credit freezing restricts access to your credit report unless you authorize it with a secure PIN. This helps prevent thieves from obtaining credit on your behalf.

  • File a complaint with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) at IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft.

  • Contact all financial institutions to let them know you have been the victim of identity theft.

  • Place a fraud alert on each of your credit files with the three major credit bureaus: Experian: 800-525-6285; Equifax: 800-525-6285; TransUnion: 800-680-7289

  • Respond immediately to any notification from the IRS regarding your return. You can also call 800-908-4490 for assistance with identity theft.



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