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What is tax identity theft?

Tax-idtheft-buttonMonday is the start of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week and the IRS’s tax filing season.

What is tax-related identity theft? It occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to claim your tax refund or earn wages. You might find out that it has happened when you get a notice from the IRS saying more than one tax return was filed with your Social Security Number, or IRS records show you have wage income from an employer you don’t know.

Last year, 22 percent of the identity theft complaints to the Federal Trade Commission were on tax-related identity theft, a decline from 33 percent in 2016, said Seena Gressin, attorney for the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education. Total identity theft complaints to the FTC also were down, dropping to 371,157 complaints in 2017, from 399,223 in 2016. It was the second year in a row that identity theft complaints to the FTC declined.

In addition, the number of scam callers who say they’re from the IRS and threaten you’ll be arrested or fined unless you pay them immediately for supposed past-due taxes dropped. The FTC received 56,065 complaints about IRS imposters last year, down 54 percent from 2016.

The more you know about tax-related identity theft and IRS imposter scams, the better your chance of avoiding them. Look for a Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week event this week.

Webinars and Twitter chats focused on tax-related identity theft and IRS imposter scams. They feature specialists from the FTC, IRS, Department of Veterans Affairs, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, and others. There are events for all consumers, and additional information for service members, older adults, and business owners.

Visit ftc.gov/taxidentitytheft for details about how to participate in the week’s activities.

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