Identity theft is very stressful for victims. Identity theft often takes the form of credit card fraud, tax fraud, phone or utilities fraud, medical fraud, loan or lease fraud, and bank fraud.
Tax-related identity theft occurs when your SSN has been fraudulently used for a tax refund or a job. If your e-filed tax return is rejected due to a duplicate filing under your SSN, you are highly likely to have become a victim of tax-related identity theft.
The number of tax returns with confirmed identity theft was about 597,000 during 2017, according to the IRS.
In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. The most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. Scammers use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try and steal money from taxpayers. Identity theft can also happen with these scams.
Taxpayers need to be wary of phone calls or automated messages from someone who claims to be from the IRS. Often these criminals will say the taxpayer owes money. They also demand payment right away. Other times scammers will lie to a taxpayer and say they are due a refund. The thieves ask for bank account information over the phone. The IRS warns taxpayers not to fall for these scams.
REMEMBER: IRS employees will NOT:
- Call demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not call a taxpayer if they owe tax without first sending a bill in the mail.
- Demand payment without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Require the taxpayer pay their taxes a certain way. For example, demand taxpayers use a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to contact local police or similar agencies to arrest the taxpayer for non-payment of taxes.
- Threaten legal action such as a lawsuit.
Phishing (pronounced "Fishing") is the attempt to gather sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details. In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, bogus email that claims to come from the IRS.
Criminals often use fake refunds, phony tax bills or threats of an audit. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.
For those taxpayers who get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS offers this advice:
- Don’t reply to the message.
- Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
- Forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then delete it.
- Do not open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.
More information on Identity Protection: Prevention, Detection, and Victim Assistance is available on IRS.gov.