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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.