by Susan Dean
If you have received a 5071C letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you may indeed be a victim of tax identity theft. The purpose of the 5071C letter is to inform you that the IRS has received a tax return with your name and/or social security number and need to verify your identity. In an effort to protect the taxpayer, the letter provides two options to contact the IRS and confirm whether or not you filed your return. Taxpayers may use the idverify.irs.gov site or call a toll-free number on the letter. Due to the high-volume of calls, the IRS-sponsored website is the safest, fastest option for taxpayers with web access.
Below is a Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft posted by the IRS.
What is tax-related identity theft?
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.
Generally, an identity thief will use your SSN to file a false return early in the year. You may be unaware you are a victim until you try to file your taxes and learn one already has been filed using your SSN.
Know the warning signs
Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive an IRS notice or letter that states that:
- More than one tax return was filed using your SSN;
- You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return;
- IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
Steps to take if you become a victim
- File a report with law enforcement.
- Report identity theft at gov/complaint and learn how to respond to it at identitytheft.gov.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
- Contact your financial institutions, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
- Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually. You can create an account online at ssa.gov.
If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, take these additional steps:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then mail or fax according to instructions.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. We have teams available to assist.
How to reduce your risk
- Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or any document with your SSN on it.
- Don’t give a business your SSN just because they ask – only when absolutely necessary.
- Protect your personal financial information at home and on your computer.
- Check your credit report annually.
- Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or the Internet unless you have either initiated the contact or are sure you know who is asking.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to:[email protected]. For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call: 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting.
This excerpt and additional Q&A information on Identity Theft can be found on the IRS website.