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2021 Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

2021 Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

January 25-29, 2021 marks Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Below you will find some basic information regarding tax identity theft and what to do if you are a victim.

IRS Identity Theft

In the digital world we live in, identity theft has become one of the most frequent cyber-crimes around.

Here are some broad statistics from the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) yearly Consumer Sentinel Data Book:

  • 3.2 million: number of fraud, identity theft and other reports for 2019
  • Over 650,000: number of cases specific to identity theft
  • 29%: percentage of identity theft reports related to tax fraud

Tax season is just beginning, with businesses preparing their financial information for filing and individuals waiting for their W-2s to become available or mailed to them. Now is the time to be vigilant when filing your tax returns.

If you file your taxes online, make sure you are using a trusted company and feel comfortable with their security. When filing your taxes, you are providing your date of birth and social security number, both important Personally Identifiable Information (PII), so use caution.

How Do I Check If Someone Is Using My Social Security Number (SSN)?

There are a large number of nefarious things people can do if they have your SSN: buy large items (car, boat, and expensive electronics), take out large loans in your name, or possibly access your bank accounts, to name a few.

There are many different online services that you can pay a subscription and they will monitor the use of your SSN on the internet. Along with monitoring your personal information, some services provide reimbursement for stolen fund. Use the following link to find a comparison between top monitoring services:

Top10.com Social Security Protection Services Comparison

How to Find Out If Someone Filed Taxes in My Name

In many cases, you won’t know if someone has stolen your identity and filed taxes in your name until you file taxes yourself. When the IRS receives a tax return if deems suspicious, they will send a letter to the taxpayer. The return will not be processed by the IRS until they have heard a reply from the taxpayer. The taxpayer will need to perform certain tasks to verify their identity with the IRS and let them know if they filed the suspicious return.

If you receive this letter, please check to see if a significant other filed for you without telling you or your SSN was transposed onto another return. There are other signs as well. Use the link below to find more information:

IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft

What do you do now that you know taxes have been filed using your SSN? Use IRS Form 14039.

IRS Form 14039/14039-B (Identity Theft Affidavit/Business Identity Theft Affidavit)

Form 14039 is used in cases where you are unable to submit your tax returns electronically due to another return filed using your SSN. In these instances, you will need to fill out form 14039, attach it to a paper tax return, and send to the IRS for investigation. For more detailed information, please use the link below:

When to File a Form 14039

IRS Fraud Prevention

As mentioned above, there are steps you can take to help prevent your SSN and other personal information from being used to file tax returns in your name. Here are a couple:

  • Utilize an online service to monitor your SSN for fraudulent activity.
  • Shred or destroy and unwanted paperwork in your home or business before disposing of it.
  • Be aware of where PII is kept on electronic devices. Make sure they are password-protected.

Constant vigilance will help keep your personal information safe. Always be aware of where your personal information is being kept, especially on electronic devices. Knowing how to identify tax identity theft and steps to take if it happens to you may be the best defense of all.

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Biz Tip Topic Expert: Todd Clemens, CPA, CFE, CGMA

Todd Clemens, CPA, CFE, CGMA

Todd is a Principal at SVA Certified Public Accountants and works with closely-held businesses in the manufacturing, distribution, and construction industries. His specialties include offering assurance services (audits, reviews, compilations, forecasts, and projections), mergers and acquisition services, fraud and litigation support services, and outsourced CFO services.

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