Stay one step ahead: proven IRS tax tips to protect yourself from identity theft

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The IRS is an excellent resource if you are concerned about protecting yourself from identity theft. Apart from having an identity theft protection package to monitor your personal information, the IRS provides valuable insights into the steps you can take to keep your data more secure.

Although many of these tips may seem common sense, fraudsters always seek new ways to commit identity theft. The IRS continuously finds new ways to combat this crime, particularly regarding tax affairs, but criminals can often be one step ahead.

Identity thieves move on to other opportunities when the IRS introduces new measures to prevent fraudulent activity. It is, therefore, essential to make it as difficult as possible for them. The IRS has compiled some excellent tips to help you protect yourself from identity theft and avoid becoming a victim.

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Social Security

One of the most straightforward measures you can take, which might seem pretty obvious, is to ensure you don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Even at home, make sure your card is stored in a safe and secure location. 

Try to make life as difficult as possible for criminals, so don't leave anything lying around in a prominent place, and keep your Social Security card hidden if you have to take it out with you.


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Protecting data

It's a similar story for any digital information you might have about your Social Security number or other tax-related personal details. But, again, be sure not to share any personal information until you're sure it is an official source that needs to see it. 

Another good habit to get into is frequent changes of any passwords you might have, especially if they pertain to personal information. A good quality password manager is a handy tool to have, and they're generally pretty affordable.

Lookout for scams

There seems to be a never-ending barrage of scams in circulation, with criminals using phone calls and emails to try and procure your personal information. You'll undoubtedly have experienced at least one of these routes taken by criminals. 

It pays to remain vigilant and look out for scams that pretend to be from legitimate banks, credit card companies, and also the IRS too. If you don't feel quite right about something, then it's best to avoid it.


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Reporting issues

You'll need to contact the IRS immediately if you're looking to e-file your tax return and find that you can't because someone has already filed one using your Social Security number. 

Therefore, you'll need to file a paper tax return instead and pay any outstanding tax you may owe. You'll also be required to fill in the IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. This needs to be printed and mailed or faxed to the revenue service.

Additional measures

Along with the steps outlined in the paragraph above, you'll also need to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission if you've been a victim of tax-related ID theft. A handy FTC Complaint Assistant can help walk you through the steps involved. 

On top of that, contact the Social Security Administration via It would help if you also got in touch with any financial institutions that may need to know about any identity theft that you suspect might have occurred.


Fraud alert

The other thing you’ll also want to do is to contact one or all of the credit bureaus. If you tell one about any potentially fraudulent activity, they must inform the other two. At this point, you might want to place a fraud alert of a credit freeze on any account that might have been the subject of an identity theft alert. 

It’s also a good idea to contact the applicable state tax agency. They may be able to advise if there are any other measures you need to take at the state level.

Official letter

You might find that the IRS has already identified potentially fraudulent activity regarding your tax-related ID and Social Security number. If so, the IRS may well send you a letter. This should explain the next steps involved, usually by contacting the IRS via a special number. 

Alternatively, they may want you to visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, which will be able to take you through the steps involved in any investigation that might be needed.


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PIN information

If you have been the victim of identity theft, the IRS can issue you an IP PIN. This unique number contains six digits, which must be used to e-file a tax return. However, this only lasts for twelve months, so anyone using an IP PIN will be issued a new one yearly. 

Using an IP PIN can help safeguard your ID if you’ve been a victim previously, which means you can return to some normality following any data breach.

Identity theft

It is important to keep in mind that the IRS will never contact you through text messages or social media channels. They will typically only reach out through mail. If you receive a communication that you are unsure about, it is recommended that you contact the IRS through official channels to confirm its authenticity. 

Do not share any personal information, especially your Social Security number, unless you are certain that it is with someone from the IRS.

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Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!

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