Tax-related identity theft. Each filing season we have a few taxpayers who have the unfortunate situation of having their e-filed return rejected because a return has already been filed using their social security number. Unfortunately, we expect the trend to continue. When someone uses your social security number to file a fraudulent tax return, it is considered tax-related identity theft. Most often, the taxpayer is unaware that their identity has been stolen prior to having their return rejected.

Occasionally a taxpayer receives other clues that indicate that they may be a victim of identity theft. Sometimes this comes in the form of a letter from the IRS indicating that:

• More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
• You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
• IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.

If you receive any correspondence from the IRS, contact your tax preparer immediately to help you take any steps necessary. You may need to file a paper return or obtain a special identity protection personal identification number from the IRS to use on future returns.

More tips to protect yourself from tax-related identity theft can be found at http://www.irs.gov

To be proactive against identity theft, it is prudent to protect your financial information. Some tips to keep your information safe are:

  • Create strong passwords and update them frequently. Avoid using names or common words. Use a password that includes numbers and symbols and a mix of upper and lower-case letters.
  • Be aware of what you share on social media. Information you share such as your birthplace or birthdate could be used by criminals to authenticate your identity.
  • Make sure you keep digital information stored on your computer or mobile device safe by using firewalls, passwords and security software.
  • You are entitled to a free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Consider accessing a free report from one of the bureaus every four months and rotating through them in order to catch any errors. If any information has been compromised, set up a fraud alert with all three major credit bureaus to put a security freeze on your files and information. Contact information for the three bureaus is below:
    • Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 800-525-6285
    • Experian, www.Experian.com, 888-397-3742
    • TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 800-680-7289

Identity theft is frightening, but these tips will help you keep your information safe.