What to do if you are a victim
Identity theft is a serious crime that can significantly and negatively affect your ability to obtain credit, get a job, or obtain medical care, just to name a few. Recovering from tax identity theft is not easy, but it can be done through a combination of quick action and careful follow-up. The Internal Revenue Service (PDF) and Federal Trade Commission recommend the following step-by-step process for addressing tax identity fraud.
- Report the fraud by calling the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 immediately. You will likely be asked to obtain a police report, fill out an IRS Theft Affidavit Form 14039 (PDF) and send proof of your identity (such as copy of a social security card, driver’s license, or passport).
- File a complaint with the FTC website. At the end of this process, you should receive an Identity Theft Affidavit and a complaint reference number. Save or print the Identity Theft Affidavit. Remember to record the date you filed your complaint. Consumers can also file a complaint by phone at 1-877-438-4338.
- Go to your local police department to obtain a police report. Remember to bring:
- a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit;
- any other proof of the theft (such as an IRS notice);
- a government-issued photo ID;
- proof of address (such as a rental agreement, pay stub, or utilities bill); and
- the FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement (PDF) (printable at the link).
If your local police department is unable or unwilling to take your identity theft report, ask if you can file a “miscellaneous incidents” report. You can also try filing at a different police station, the local sheriff’s department, state police, or federal authority.
- Contact one of the three (3) major credit reporting bureaus and ask them to place a “fraud alert” on your credit report. A “fraud alert” placed with one (1) credit reporting bureau should automatically be placed on your credit report with the other two (2) bureaus. A fraud alert does not prevent identity thieves from misusing your identity, but it will result in credit reporting bureaus taking additional steps to verify a credit applicant’s information. These alerts generally expire after 90 days, so you may need to renew it periodically. Numbers to call are as follow:
- Resolving tax identity theft with state and federal tax authorities may require many months, or longer. While this process is ongoing, continue to file your taxes, even if you must do so by paper.
- Tax identity theft may be a precursor to other forms of identity theft. Therefore, consumers who wish to take an additional security step may want to consider requesting a “security freeze” on their credit report from each of the three (3) major credit reporting bureaus. This step will make it impossible for identity thieves to open new lines of credit in your name. However, it will also prevent you from opening new lines of credit unless you contact the credit reporting bureaus to temporarily (or permanently) lift the freeze. There may also be fees levied for placing, lifting, or removing a security freeze depending on the state you live in and whether or not you have proof that you are a victim of identity theft.
- Additional information on spotting and avoiding identity theft is available from the Federal Trade Commission website. Taking Charge: What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen (PDF) is a free publication from the FTC that offers step-by-step guides, sample letters, and other information that can help you to recover from identity theft available online.