Identity theft is a very real and very serious problem in the United States. And, sadly, one of the most common identity-theft crimes is when a scammer manages to steal and pocket another person’s income tax refund. Typically, the person who has been “had” does not find out until he or she goes to file a real return.
While, sadly, there is not really anything you can do to 100% guarantee that this won’t happen to you or that you won’t become the victim of another type of identity theft, there are, at the very least, things you can do to prevent this kind of thing from happening, and, worst case scenario, to lessen the damage if it does.
First and foremost, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to educate yourself on the warning signs of income tax fraud. That way, if these warning signs do happen to crop up in your life, you will take notice, contact the IRS, and, hopefully, stop what is happening in its tracks.
Some warning signs of identity theft typically include:
l Getting a notification/alert that more than one income tax return has been filed in your name
l Cancellation of state and/or federal benefits for reasons you do not understand
l You show a balance due but were not required to file a return
l Your earned income is higher than you actually earned
l Refund offset occurs when you were not required to file a return
l The IRS has inaccurate information about your employer
l You have a collections action in a year in which you were not required to file a return
If you notice any of these signs, and/or if something just seems “amiss”with your taxes, be sure to contact the IRS, as well as, ideally, a tax professional, to help you sort things out before the situation gets even messier.
If You Notice These Signs…
As mentioned, if you notice any signs of trouble, then you should act immediately.
As soon as you have verified the fact that identity theft did occur, you will want to fill out and send in form 14039, the identity theft affidavit, preferably with the help and guidance of a seasoned professional.
This will let the IRS know that you have been victimized and will start you down the right path to undoing any damage that has been done.
Remember, this process can be complex to go through, especially alone, so you are highly advised, whenever possible, to seek help from a financial professional.