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Tax-Related Identity Theft and Fraud

With so many Iowans and people across the country victimized by massive data breaches over the past few years, it’s possible that many will also be targeted by identity thieves and become victims of tax-related identity theft. Keep in mind, however, that not all data breach victims become identity theft or tax-related identity theft victims.

Tax-related identity theft takes place when someone uses your Social Security number to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund.

Warning Signs of Tax-Related Identity Theft

  • When you try to e-file your tax return, someone has already filed a return using your Social Security number.
  • The IRS informs you by mail that you owe additional taxes, a refund offset, or you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a return.
  • IRS records show you were paid or received other income from an employer for whom you did not work.
  • The IRS notifies you by mail that that a filed tax return using your Social Security number appears to be suspicious.

Tax-Related Identity Theft Victim?

  • File a report with your local police department or sheriff’s office.
  • File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at
  • Contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
  • Notify your financial institutions.
  • Contact the IRS.

How to Reduce Your Risk

  • The IRS suggests you file your tax return early, so an identity thief doesn’t file one in your name and request a refund before you try to file your legitimate return. If you file your return before a criminal tries to file one for you, the IRS will reject the fraudulent return. It’s important, though, not to rush a return that may be incomplete or inaccurate, as that could result in penalties, interest, or additional problems.
  • Watch out for fake websites, emails, links and attachments that claim to be IRS-related and seek personal data. The IRS will not email you to request personal or financial information.
  • Always use updated anti-virus and security software.
  • The IRS will not call you to demand immediate payment over the phone.
  • If you have questions about a tax debt, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report a tax-related scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at or call 800-366-4484.
  • You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC’s Complaint Assistant at Choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
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