One of the latest targets for cybercrime is the Internal Revenue Service. Identity thieves have been using stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information to file fake tax returns and collect undeserved refunds. The number of criminal investigations by the IRS into identity theft issues more than tripled from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2012, and the number

of new investigations opened to-date in fiscal year 2013 is on pace to almost double those in fiscal year 2012.1
 
The IRS is stepping up efforts to reduce refund fraud and identity theft, and you can help. Here are a few steps to take to protect against tax refund identity fraud:

  • Do not respond to email from the IRS—they don’t send any. Just like most banks, the IRS does not request personal information via email. If you receive a suspicious email, help fight fraud by forwarding it to phishing@irs.gov.2
  • Choose your tax preparer carefully. If you pay someone else to complete, review or file taxes for you, make sure it’s a reputable organization. According to experts, some fraud rings use tax preparation companies as fronts.2 You can get more information regarding the reputation of a tax preparer through the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org.
  • Let the IRS know if you have been a victim of identity theft. If your identity has been stolen, it is essential to file IRS Form 14039, which is an Identity Theft Affidavit. Filing the form means that your tax returns will be flagged and carefully evaluated for fraud.1
  • Keep track of your tax forms. If you don’t receive the forms you expect — and you have verified they were sent — contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit by calling 800-908-4490.2
  • If you take precautions, and the IRS rejects your return because it has already received one, prepare to be patient. It can take time to resolve issues related to tax fraud.

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1Reuters.com, Identity Theft and the IRS, or, Who Got My Refund? March 13, 2013
2Kiplingers.com, 5 Ways to Guard Against Tax Fraud, March 2012