Spring is here, which means that it’s tax filing season—woohoo! Hopefully, after you go through the necessity of filling out your return, you’ll have a nice refund coming your way, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
But wait—can someone steal your tax refund check? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. In fact, more and more people are having their identities stolen and their funds swiped by hackers. This growing issues is known as Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF).
However, the IRS is more swamped than ever and are notoriously slow to respond. In fact, there are still millions of taxpayers waiting for their refunds from last year. This means that the odds of you being a victim of SIRF will increase.
SIRF has led to billions of dollars in losses according to a study by the General Accountability Office. The IRS doesn’t have the resources to verify fake W2 forms for legitimacy.
As more people are filing electronically in modern times, thieves have more opportunities to attack your finances and steal your money.
Therefore, it’s important to know the seven steps you can take to recover your refund if you’re one of the unfortunate victims of SIRF.
1. Report it to the IRS
You should immediately call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit phone number at 1(800) 908-4490. You must fill out an affidavit verifying the identity theft (Form 14039), which lets the IRS put an alert on your account.
You can also report the theft to your local police department as many government agencies and credit bureaus need an official report to help you fix all of the associated issues down the line.
2. Submit tax theft documentation
You should have old copies of your tax returns handy to help move your case along faster and help convince the IRS that your complaint is legitimate.
You should also have your driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, bills, and marriage certificate handy. The various authorities will need to see copies of these documents to help prove your identity.
Those documents and your police report will help confirm that your return is the legitimate one, not the fraudulently filed one.
3. Alert credit bureaus of theft
If an online criminal filed a false tax return and stole your refund, they may pursue other avenues of fraud against you, like opening up a credit card under your name.
You can set up fraud alerts with all three major credit bureaus, which acts as a red flag to creditors and lenders that you may have been a victim of fraud. They last 90 days but can easily be renewed.
Furthermore, you could place a credit freeze with all three bureaus. That stops new creditors from viewing your credit score and credit reports. A freeze will also prevent you from getting instant credit though, so if you need a new loan, you’ll need to give the agency permission to unfreeze your information.
4. Check your credit
Getting your credit reports doesn’t cost you any money, so request them and carefully review to make sure there hasn’t been any fraudulent activity. If you see mistakes on your reports, you can dispute them with each credit bureau as well as with the businesses that reported the fraudulent info.
Take note, usually, you can only get one free report per year, however professional identity monitoring services, like IDShield, allow you to access one credit report per month. Not only that, they monitor your credit 24/7.
5. Close fraudulent accounts
This one almost goes without saying, but if someone stole your tax return, you may also find that there are credit or other financial accounts that were falsely opened in your name by thieves.
If someone opened an account with your information, you should immediately close the accounts.
6. Change all your passwords
If you discover fraud, immediately change your passwords for all of your devices and accounts.
Online fraudsters are well aware that people often use the same passwords across multiple accounts. With an increase of over 400% in phishing and malware incidents, according to the FBI, you should change your passwords as often as possible.
7. Follow up with the IRS
Lastly, stay on top of the IRS with respect to your case.
As noted above, they are overworked and have limited resources, but once you’ve contacted them, follow up to make sure your case is being handled.
Be aware that it often takes over a year to deal with identity theft issues, but rest assured, the IRS will eventually give you your hard-earned refund. If you are having financial issues because of the wait, contact the IRS taxpayer advocate service at (877) 777-4778.
IDShield is here to help
For more tips on tax-related identity theft, how to protect your Social Security number from identity theft common tax schemes reported to the Better Business Bureau, medical identity theft, and how to protect your personal data from identity thieves, IDShield offers one-on-one consultation to answer all of these questions. And we help ensure that your private information remains private. IDShield is your all-inclusive solution to identity protection, monitoring, and restoration. It now brings you enhanced privacy and reputation management consultation.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see www.idshield.com. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice or assistance. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm.