Taxpayer identity theft occurs when another fraudulently uses stolen personal information to get a taxpayer’s refund or stimulus check. This form of theft can be frustrating for many reasons, including the fact it can take weeks or even months to realize you are a victim. Many become aware that something is amiss once they attempt to file their taxes electronically. Those who find they cannot file electronically are wise to contact a tax attorney to help address the issue.
Taxpayers should also act to protect their interests if they are audited or receive an automated audit by the IRS’ form CP2000 – Notice of Underreporting of Income. If the notice shows something that seems unfamiliar, such as a strange W2, or 1099 or brokerage/bank account, notify the IRS and hire a tax attorney.
Taxpayers should also note the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not initiate contact through the use of emails, text or social media posts. Any attempts are likely part of a scam and taxpayers should not reply.
Taxpayers can take proactive steps to protect themselves against these scams by having a basic awareness of the process. For a scam to work, the taxpayer must generally provide personal information or allow the fraudster access to their computers, phones or other electronic devices.
Taxpayers can reduce these risks with the following tips:
- Security software. Use security software on electronic devices like phones and computers to protect against viruses and malware.
- Be protective of personal information. If providing it online, make sure the site is safe. One way to check: look for the https address as opposed to http.
- Use unique passwords to help reduce the risk that someone could hack into your files. It is helpful to use an easily rememberable long phrase, but also include numbers and symbols to increase the effectiveness of the chosen password.
- Avoid clicking on suspicious links sent in emails. Urgent messages or those requesting social security numbers are especially suspect.
Taxpayers who find themselves navigating tax issues are wise to seek legal counsel. The attorneys at Goldburd McCone LLP focus on tax issues and can discuss your options.