What the IRS is Doing about Identity Theft

Getting good health insurance can be made more difficult if your identity is compromised, so it’s important to know how to spot identity theft. Identity theft is an extremely damaging crime that has become more popular and less difficult for criminals with the advent of social media technology. With so many people willingly broadcasting information like their name, birthday, and family connections, most of the information criminals need can be very easily obtained by anyone with a working knowledge of Facebook, Twitter, or a simple search engine.

One of the most obvious warning signs that your identity has been compromised may come as an inadvertent warning from the IRS. Keep an eye out for these warning signs that someone else is using your identity…

– The IRS sends you a notice saying that your tax return has been denied.

– The IRS notifies you that you have unreported income.

– Errors appear on your credit report or you’re denied an application unexpectedly

– Too few or too many pieces of unexpected mail show up

– You find errors on credit card or bank statements

– Strange bills or errors show up in your auto insurance or life insurance policy

Remain vigilant, because identity theft is almost an unpredictable as it is devastating. It could happen to absolutely anyone, and it can have far-reaching consequences if you don’t react quickly. Luckily, the IRS is taking steps to prevent future instances of identity theft being used to rob people of their tax returns. In 2014, they already managed to mark 236,000 fraudulent tax return forms, keeping roughly $1.2 billion out of the hands of criminals, but the innocent victims of this identity theft still suffered delays.

2014’s number of fraudulent returns was much smaller than 2012’s, and the IRS thinks is might know exactly why that number is dropping. The IRS has been issuing PIN numbers to identity-theft victims by the thousands since 2013 when it handed out 770,000. Fast-forward to 2014, and the IRS has distributed a total of nearly 2 million, 1.2 million of which were distributed in 2014 alone. In addition to issuing PIN numbers, the IRS is also restricting how many tax returns can land in a single bank account via direct deposit. After three direct deposits into a single account, additional returns will instead be mailed directly to their correct recipient as a check.

An ounce of prevention, however, is still better than a pound of cure, so it’s important to know what scammers and identity thieves are looking for. First and foremost, protect your social security number, because if that information becomes public, your identity is sure to be stolen sooner or later due to its crucial role and relative obscurity compared to things like your birthday. The most effective way to protect yourself is to simply not give your information out. The IRS will never contact you via email or social networks to request confidential information, and you should be weary of phone calls you didn’t initiate yourself.

If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, fill out the Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039) and mail or fax it to the IRS. You can also contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1 (800) 908-4409.

Have you or a loved one been affected by identity theft? What are some steps other readers can take to ensure their security? Share your advice in the comments section below!