Contributed By: Jon Freemon

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security Number (SSN) to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return and discover that a return already has been filed using your Social Security Number. Or, the IRS may send you a letter saying they have identified a suspicious return using your Social Security Number. According to the IRS, people should be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or your tax professional/provider about one or more of the following:

1. More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
2. You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
3. IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.
4. You receive a tax transcript by mail that you did not request.
5. Your attempt to file your tax return electronically is rejected.

Below are some things the IRS recommends doing to reduce your risk of tax related identity theft.

• Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections.
• Use strong passwords.
• Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card companies and even the IRS.
• Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
• Protect your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure.

One more thing to keep in mind is that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

To find more information about federal income taxes you can visit the IRS website. Remember that you can always get personal finance information from the Gwinnett Library’s GCPL Personal Finance Guide.