By Jake Stroup. Identity Theft Expert
Everybody is in a tizzy this time of year, filing tax returns, trying to get their tax refund from the IRS. Unfortunately, many consumers are also busy reporting identity theft to the IRS, after finding out their tax check is going to be held up this year because somebody already filed a return using their social security number.
Chances are really good that if you were, you will find out about it soon after filing taxes. For example, the IRS may send you a letter saying you have filed more than one return, or that someone has filed a return using your information.
You may also find out by learning that you have a "balance due", a "refund offset", or that the IRS is trying to collect from you for a year you didn't file taxes, meaning the IRS thinks you owe them money. (If you are using a tax preparation service, they may be the ones to tell you, but you will most likely get a letter soon after that from the IRS telling you the same thing.)
This is common enough that the IRS has a specific form to file – the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039 ) – for notifying them that you believe you are a victim of identity theft. The form may be filled out online, then printed and mailed or faxed. Information for all of this is on page 2 of Form 14039. (Depending on who printed it, this may actually be on the back of the form.) There is also a Spanish version of the form – Form 14039SP .
When sending in Form 14039, you will need to also send a photocopy of one of these documents: a valid passport, your driver's license (issued in one of the
US states), your social security card, or other valid U.S.
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Federal or State government issued identification.
If you haven't been a victim of identity theft yet, but think that you might have to worry about that – for example if you had your social security card in your purse or wallet and it was recently stolen – you can still file Form 14039 to warn the IRS flag your account for possible problems in the future. This doesn't guarantee that you won't still have problems, but it will give you a leg-up in dealing with the situation if it comes up.
The IRS also advises that, if you believe you may become a victim of identity theft, you should call the Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU), toll-free at 1-800-908-4490. The IPSU is available 7 A.M – 7 P.M. in your local time zone. (Hawaii and Alaska follow the Pacific time zone for this.) Some of the reasons they list for suspecting you may become a victim of identity theft include a lost or stolen wallet or questionable information on your credit report.
It's unfortunate that the identity theft problem has become so prevalent that the IRS has had to create a specific group to address the issue, as well as creating Form 14039. Tax fraud based on identity theft issues has become the most widely reported form of identity theft over the past couple of years.
In most cases, it will be a good idea to also have a police report documenting when a specific event happened that may lead to identity theft. Again, the idea of a stolen wallet or purse comes immediately to mind. This is the sort of thing that you will want to report to the police immediately, and get a copy of the report.