At Tax Time, FTC Reminds Consumers: Watch Out for Identity Theft

Tips for Consumers

With the tax-filing season upon us, the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, reminds consumers to be aware of the threat of identity theft.  Your tax return contains sensitive personal information, and scammers can use your Social Security number to get a job, or to collect your tax refund.

As you prepare your tax return, consider taking steps to ensure your tax information does not fall into the wrong hands.  These precautions can include:

  • Make sure that anyone helping you prepare your taxes is trustworthy.
  • File taxes early in the tax season to reduce the window of time in which a thief could fraudulently file under your Social Security number.
  • If filing electronically, only submit forms through a secure Internet connection.
  • If filing by mail, go to the post office directly to mail the envelope.
  • Do not respond to email messages asking for your personal information that purport to be from the IRS.  If the IRS needs to contact you, it will do so by mail.

The FTC cautions that identity thieves can use a stolen Social Security number to file for a tax refund in the victim’s name. The FTC advises that, if you think this has happened to you, or if you get an Internal Revenue Service notice indicating a problem with your filing, contact the IRS immediately for help with your tax return, any refund, and protecting your IRS account from identity theft in the future.

If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, the FTC also recommends three steps to minimize the potential damage:

  • Put a fraud alert on your credit reports.
  • Review your credit reports.
  • Create an identity theft report by filing an identity theft complaint with the FTC and filing a police report. 

Please read the FTC's Tax-Related Identity Theft to learn more about how to uncover and deal with this issue and for contact information for the IRS.  For additional resources, visit the FTC’s identity theft website.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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