The Federal Trade Commission has named January 13-17, 2014, Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. To raise awareness the Commission will host national and regional events and provide people with tips on how to protect themselves and what to do if they become victims. Tax identity theft accounted for more than 43 percent of the Commission's identity theft complaints in 2012, nearly double the number received in 2011.
Tax identity theft happens when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information; like your Social Security number, to get a tax refund from the IRS. It also can happen when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job or claims your child as a dependent on a tax return. Tax identity theft is the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.
The IRS says tax identity theft is a top priority and says it has hired new staff, explored new technologies, and adopted new procedures to fight it. Tax identity theft victims typically find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in the their name, or IRS records show they received wages from an employer they don’t know. If you get a letter like this, don’t panic. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.