Tax identity theft is committed when someone files a tax return in your name with the hopes of stealing the refund. What do they need to file a fraudulent Form 1040EZ? Three things – name, data of birth, and social security number. The fraudster puts down a fake address, and collects the paper checks as they come.
How can you protect yourself?
1) File as soon as you can. The best way to avoid falling victim to tax identity theft is to file your tax return as soon as you receive the necessary paperwork. The logic behind this is a thief cannot file a return in your name if you already filed a legitimate one.
2) Make sure you are filing safely and securely. Before you file your return, you will want to make sure you are using a tax filing service you trust. Do your research on the service to confirm its legitimacy and take extra steps to protect yourself. If you're filling online do not use a public Wi-Fi and make sure the website uses a secure URL. Paper filers should use certified mail to send their return because it will guarantee the IRS receives it, which is worth the extra fee you will pay to send it.
3) Follow up with the IRS after 21 days (for e-filers) have passed. The standard wait for a tax refund is 21 days for e-filers and 6 weeks for paper filers. Therefore, if that time has passed and you did not receive your refund, you will want to contact the IRS.
4) Be on alert for scammers. Know that the IRS does not email or text taxpayers and your first contact with the IRS will always be via traditional mail. It is wise to think twice before you provide any of your personal information to someone who calls you. When in doubt, your best course of action is to hang up the phone and call the company or government agency using a trusted source such as the official website or a business card.
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