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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Taxes > Other Federal Tax Questions

Tax-Related Identity Theft


Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone fraudulently uses your Social Security number to file a tax return and get a tax refund. Many people do not find out this has happened until they go to file a tax return and are unable to do so. For example, if you file your return electronically, the tax return may be rejected since IRS records will show that a return has already been filed. Other signs that you may be a victim of tax related identity theft:

  • IRS takes your refund for an alleged past balance you did not know you owed.
  • IRS sends you notice of a balance that you did not know you had.
  • IRS records show that you received wages from an employer you never had.

What should I do if I find out that I’m a victim?

If you find out you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, do the following:

  • Contact the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) and get copies of your free credit report. Review your report for any suspicious activity, such as credit inquiries you did not make or accounts you did not open. 
  • Place a fraud alert on your reports from the three credit bureaus. 
  • File a police report.
  • Report the identity theft to the Fair Trade Commission.
  • Order a copy of your Social Security Administration earnings statement. Check the earnings record for accuracy. See Request for Social Security Earnings Information for instructions and forms.
  • Call the Internal Revenue Service Fraud Hotline at 1-800-829-0433 and tell them what happened.
  • Complete IRS form 14039, an identity theft affidavit. Follow the instructions on the form and submit your identity theft affidavit to the IRS. The IRS has an Identity Theft Protection Specialized Unit to handle identity theft cases. This unit should be able to help you secure your tax account and match it to the correct person. Submitting form 14039 will start the investigation process.
  • Complete IRS form 4506-F to request a copy of the tax return fraudulently filed in your name using your Social Security number.
  • Continue to file your own tax return, even if only by paper.

How can I prevent tax-related identity fraud?

Take practical steps to prevent identity theft.

  • Keep any documents that include your Social Security number in a safe place. For example, do not keep your Social Security card in the wallet that you carry every day. 
  • Share your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary.
  • Share your Social Security number only with a trusted person or business.
  • Routinely check your credit report.
  • Keep all personal computers secure and change account passwords often.

Once you have reported the identity theft to the IRS, it may take weeks or months to resolve the situation. If you submitted an identity theft affidavit and did not hear back from the IRS, or you are having trouble reporting and resolving your tax-related identity theft situation, Legal Services of New Jersey's Tax Legal Assistance Project (TLAP) might be able to help. Contact TLAP through LSNJLAWSM, LSNJ's statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888- LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529).You may also apply for help online.

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