You're racing around the house, frantically collecting forms and speed-reading to find the numbers that correspond to those little boxes. Finally, you get all the information plugged in and click "Submit" - a moment of peace and relief. Another year's filing, one that you swore would be done much sooner, is complete.
But wait, what's this? A message pops up that someone's already filed your taxes!? For too many Americans - especially late filers - this bit of bad news will be a reality this tax season.
Last year, the IRS reported 787,000 confirmed cases of fraudulent tax filings, aka a fraudster filing taxes using someone else's identity. The payout of these phony filings? More than $4 billion in potentially fraudulent returns.
While the IRS does have security measures in place to help verify the accuracy of filers' tax returns and the validity of Social Security numbers, some fraudulent filings are bound to get through this year. So what should you do if you're one of the unlucky individuals?
Notify the IRS immediately.
If someone else has fraudulently filed your taxes, then you may be unaware until you efile your return, or the IRS may send you a letter letting you know that they have identified a suspicious return that includes your SSN.
- If you received a letter letting you know that a previously received filing may be fraudulent, respond immediately to the number provided. (Remember, the IRS will never make initial contact with you via phone or email, so think twice before responding to an email or phone call from anyone claiming to be from the IRS.)
- If you received a notice while filing online, visit the IRS's dedicated Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft page for the most up-to-date instructions. As of the writing of this blog post, the IRS was asking individuals who suspected their taxes may have been fraudulently filed to complete the IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, attach the form to your tax return and submit the filing by mail.
File a compliant with the Federal Trade Commission.
This can be done online via the FTC's IdentityTheft.gov website. The site will also walk you through the step-by-step process of creating an identity theft report and recovery plan.
Add a fraud alert to your credit report.
If you haven't already done so, contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your credit report. There are several types of fraud alerts that can be placed, depending whether you've experienced fraud before or not. Alerts can typically be placed online; adding an alert with just one of the agencies will also let the other two know.
- Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 800-766-0008
- Experian, www.Experian.com, 888-397-3742
- TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 800-680-7289
Let your bank, credit union and card providers know.
Contact your financial institution(s) and let them know that you've experienced fraud using your personal information and see what help they can offer. Many institutions can add a fraud alert or other precautions to your banking profile to help you keep your money and information more secure.
Consider signing up for identity theft monitoring.
Filing someone else's tax returns requires the fraudster to have a fairly significant amount of your personal information, and unfortunately this tax season may not be the last time they use your information.
For consistent, proactive monitoring of your information, you may want to think about signing up for a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service. There are several companies that monitor the web and other databases for uses of your personal information. Many will even work with you if you do become the victim of identity theft or if you incur costs as a result of a theft. While these services typically include an annual or monthly membership fee, they can serve as a valuable layer of additional protection - especially if you've experienced identity theft in the past or you've been a victim of a data breach. At WaFd Bank, we offer IDProtect with our Green and Stellar Plus checking accounts. (Both types of accounts require $25 to open. Click here to find out more.)
IDProtect includes credit file monitoring, 3-in-1 credit report, identity theft expense reimbursement coverage and resolution services. IDProtect also includes total identity monitoring of more than 1,000 databases for your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. You'll get daily monitoring of your credit files with alerts via email, and text (if activated). Plus you can request to receive a new credit report every 90 days or upon receipt of a credit alert so that you can double check your report details. Some benefits of IDProtect do require registration and activation, but all are available at no extra cost to our Green or Stellar Plus Checking account owners.
IDProtect and insurance products are not FIDC insured or insured by any Federal Government Agency; not a deposit of or guaranteed by the bank or any bank affiliate. Visit our My WaFd Wins Benefits page for more details and product disclosures.