Reduce Your Risk of Tax Identity Theft

Tax Identity Theft and IRS Imposter Scams

It is officially tax season, and that can also mean scam season. The article below outlines some tips and information you can use to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of tax identity theft.

What is tax identity theft?

Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and collect your refund. You may not find out about it until you try to file your tax return and the IRS rejects it as a duplicate filing. While the IRS investigates, your tax refund can be delayed. The misuse of your SSN means you also may be at risk of other types of identity theft.

How can I spot tax identity theft?

  1. If you receive a written notice from the IRS about a duplicate return, a notice stating that you reported wages from somewhere you never worked, or other notices that do not seem to apply to you, immediately contact the IRS’s identity theft department at 1-800-908-4490.
  2. If anyone calls you claiming to be from the IRS and requests money, HANG UP! The IRS’s first contact will ALWAYS be a letter in the mail. An IRS imposter scam is when someone contacts you and pretends to be from the IRS. Usually, the scammer will say that you owe taxes and must pay them immediately or face serious penalties.
  3. The IRS will NEVER request payment in the form of gift cards, wire transfer, cashier’s check, prepaid card or cash.

How can I reduce my risk?

  1. File early. The best way to avoid tax identity theft is to file your taxes as early as possible, before a scammer has the chance to use your information.
  2. Do your research and make sure your tax preparer is trustworthy before handing over your personal information.
  3. Never provide your personal information to anyone who contacts you by telephone.
  4. Request an IRS Identity Protection PIN number as an added step to protect your personal information. See below for more information!

What is an IRS Identity Protection PIN?

  1. If you have ever been a victim of identity theft, it is important to get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS
  2. The IP PIN is a six-digit number, which, in addition to your Social Security number, confirms your identity when filing tax returns. Once you receive an IP PIN number, you must provide the IP PIN each year when you file your federal tax returns.
  3. Visit the IP PIN page here:

What should I do if I think tax identity theft happened to me?

  1. If you are or believe you have been the victim of tax identity theft contact the IRS’s identity theft department at 1-800-908-4490
  2. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. The FTC also offers a personalized identity theft recovery plan at

How can I tell if a phone call is really from the IRS?

The IRS will NEVER: 

  1. Call you until they have already sent you at least one letter in the mail.
  2. Threaten to have you arrested or deported for not paying.
  3. Call you to demand immediate payment with a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. 
  4. Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  5. Contact you by email, text message, or social media to request personal or financial information such as PINs, passwords, credit card, bank, or other account information.

What Do IRS Scam Calls Sound Like?

What to do if you are a victim?

  1. Report possible IRS scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 and to
  2. If you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, do not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message.
  3. If you’ve been targeted by this or another scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience to

The following link to the FTC webpage provides an excellent informational graphic about IRS Imposter Scams: