Identity theft is a serious offense that can affect just about anyone if they’re unlucky enough to be targeted by criminals. Fraudsters use all sort of different ways to get their hands on your personal information, which if it involves getting hold of your name, Social Security number and other identifying information can result in tax fraud and other crimes being committed using your ID.
Adding insult to injury, if criminals manage to get their hands on personal information pertaining to your tax affairs then it could also mean you could end up having your refund taken or a much-needed stimulus payment being stolen. On top of the financial hardship this can cause the matter of identity theft can also be a minefield to sort out after it’s happened.
While signing up for an identity theft protection package is useful, it’s also a very good idea to ensure that you make regular checks on your financial information. On top of that, you’ll want to make sure that you look after things like your Social Security number more carefully, as well as being more diligent about keeping other personal information a more closely guarded secret.
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If you’re unfortunate to have your tax information stolen then it may be that you don’t realise it right away. In some cases if might take an annual event, such as e-filing your annual tax return to the IRS in order to find out what has been going on. In some cases you might try and file your return and then get a notification from the IRS that one has already been filed in your name.
However, an identity thief may also use your Social Security number to get a job, which can cause you further issues. If you start to find strange things happening to information related to your personal tax information then it may well be time to get in touch with the IRS in order to let them know what is happening.
Equally, you may find that the IRS contacts you first, especially if it has evidence of a tax return already being filed using your Social Security number.
If you do get that letter from the IRS, outlining that someone has been using your SSN to obtain your tax refund or that there are other problems associated with your account, be sure to act on what the letter tells you to do. There will be a number for the IRS included in the letter, which you’ll need to call. Make sure you have the letter, along with a copy of your tax return from the previous year, which will help prove your identity when you get through to them.
Alternatively, if you haven’t received a letter from the IRS and suspect all is not well then it’s possible to make contact with them yourself. The first of two jobs to carry out is to head over to IdentityTheft.gov and read up on the information there. Next, you’ll want to complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039). Following that you’ll need to submit the form to the IRS online, which will enable them to start working on your case.
Hopefully the IRS will be able to get to the bottom of the identity theft that has affected your personal tax history. However, you’ll also want to try and restore things to the way they were before you were singled out by criminals. One option is to put a fraud alert on your credit reports. This is a relatively simple but very effective measure that can make it much more difficult for an identity thief to open more accounts using your name and other details.
In order to do this you’ll need to contact one of the three nationwide credit bureaus; which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Contacting them will not only allow you to create a fraud alert, but also perform a credit freeze, which is also referred to as a security freeze, and also opt out from pre-screened credit offers. The good thing is that you only have to notify one of the three and they are then required to inform the other two. An alert will last for one year.
Next up, make sure that you order free credit reports, which can be done via annualcreditreport.com. What’s more, due to the pandemic, everyone in the US was able to get their own free credit report every week and this has been available from all of the three national credit reporting companies named above. During less turbulent times it’s still possible to get a free copy of your credit report once every twelve months. This is a vital measure to keep tabs on how your overall credit picture looks.
By taking this measure you can quickly spot any irregularities on your account. If you see any bogus accounts opened in your name then you’ll need to close them as soon as possible. For more practical advice and tips then head along to the IdentityTheft.gov website for additional help.
It may take some time before your personal details and any accounts associated with them are returned to normal. Looking to the future, it’s also a good idea to sign up for an identity theft protection package too, which could help to keep fraudsters at bay. It’s certainly an additional safeguard that will often come with lots of other fringe benefits too, such as integrated internet security options and even a VPN.
- Check out our roundup of the best identity theft protection