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What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses another’s personal information in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in their name. Victims of identity theft can suffer adverse consequences if they are held accountable for the perpetrator's actions. To learn more about identity theft visit the Federal Trade Commission’s page on consumer information.
How does is affect you?
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s most recent study, as many as 10 million Americans are the victim of some form of identity theft every year. It continues to be the fastest growing crime in America, and it is one of the most costly crimes to both consumers and businesses. In recent years, the number of tax identity thefts has increased dramatically as more Americans are filing their income tax returns electronically. Tax fraud increased from 51,700 in 2008 to 1.1 million in 2011.
Protect Yourself against Identity Theft
Identity theft can be difficult to prevent or detect until after it has happened, but taking certain precautions can help prevent major losses. Follow these safe practices:
Preventing Identity Theft Online
Precautions for e-filing your tax returns
- If you are e-filing your tax returns check the IRS website to ensure that your tax service provider is an authorized IRS e-file Provider.
- Choose a tax preparation service or website that provides bank level security, such as two-factor authentication and anti-malware protection.
- Identity thieves often use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund early in the filing season. For this reason you should file your tax returns as soon as you receive all of your relevant documents.
- Make sure any Web form you submit is HTTP Secure, and make sure the address of each page is a valid IRS or tax preparation website.
- Watch for suspicious emails and pop-ups. Legitimate banks or tax preparation services do not ask a users to enter sensitive information into a pop-up screen or into a link provided via email.
- If you set up a username and password on an e-filing website, make sure your password is unique from that of any other personal accounts, especially social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. If your password is the same across multiple profiles and one gets compromised, all your accounts will be at risk.
- Update the anti-virus and malware detection software on any device which you will enter tax information before you get started. Even if you know the tax fraud facts and are cautious while e-filing, malware might still be on your computer to intercept data from legitimate websites.
The IRS provides a Tax Payer Guide to Identity Theft online for your convenience. If you receive a notice from the IRS, please call the number on that notice. If not, contact the IRS at 800-908-4490. You should also fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.
What should you do if your identity is stolen?
If your identity has been stolen, file a police report, and get a copy of the report to use as proof of the crime. You should also close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the FTC’s ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts. Additionally, contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, Trans Union—to place a fraud alert on your credit file. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge.
Lastly, file your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps the FTC learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that they can better assist the public.
Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to firstname.lastname@example.org. For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call 1-800-366-4484.
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