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Identity Theft and Your Taxes

Identity Theft and Your Taxes - Your identity and money can be stolen in a tax-related scam via email ("phishing"), fax, phone, or letters. Some recent examples of identity theft scams are:

  • Refund scam - A bogus email, claiming to come from the IRS, tells you that you are eligible to receive a tax refund for a given amount if you just follow the instructions in the email.
  • Inherited funds, lottery winnings, and cash consignment scams - A bogus email, claiming to come from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, notifies you that you will receive millions of dollars if you follow the instructions in the email. This may be a multi-step scheme that includes instructions for you to deposit taxes on the funds before they can be paid out or the issuance of a phony check on which you must pay 10% tax before the check can be deposited.
  • EFTPS scam - A bogus email, claiming to come from the IRS, contains a realistic-looking screenshot of the IRS website with a message about fraud attempts regarding our bank account. The email states that the bank account can be unblocked if you just click a link and provide information.
  • EIN scam - A bogus fax, claiming to be from the IRS, informs you that you have failed to submit required bank account details. You are asked to fax back a form that requests your EIN, bank information, and officer signatures.
Notify the IRS if you receive a tax-related phishing email, do not click on the links or open any attachments. Forward the email to or call the IRS at 800-829-1040

How the IRS Contacts Taxpayers

  • The IRS will never initiate contact with you by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.
  • It is unusual for the IRS to initiate contact by fax or phone call. You can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to verify that an unexpected fax or phone call is legitimate.

Fraudulent Tax Returns - An identity thief might use your Social Security number to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. You could be completely unaware that your identity has been stolen until your return is rejected for e-filing or you get an IRS notice or letter.

  • This situation can occur because of a miss-typed number or dispute about claiming a dependency exemption. Such cases do not necessarily indicate identity theft.
  • If your return has been rejected because of a previously used Social Security number, it cannot be e-filed. You must file a paper return.

IRS Notice - You receive an IRS notice or letter stating that:

  • More than one return was filed in you name for the year,
  • You have a balance due, refund offset, or initiation of collection action for a year when you did not file a return, or
  • IRS records indicate that you received wages from an employer you didn't work for.
You should respond immediately to the name and phone number printed on the IRS notice or letter. You will be asked to complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and provide identifying information.

IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU)

If you believe there is a risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information, contact the IPSU immediately so the agency can take action to secure you tax account. Call 800-908-4490. You will be asked to complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidvit.

Form 14039 has two purposes.

  • Informs the IRS you are an actual or potential victim of identity theft that has or could affect your tax account.
  • Requests that the IRS mark your account to identify any questionable activity.

You must provide details of the actual or potential identity theft situation, tax years impacted (if known), address and other contact information, and a photocopy of valid government-issued identification.

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