Tax software makers and service providers are offering new layers of security this tax season to protect you from identity theft. You might find shorter shutdown times after inactivity, for example, and fewer chances to try again after a log-in error. Users of TaxSlayer, TurboTax, and other services will have the option to use a unique log-in code along with the usual ID and password. The updates reflect a coordinated effort by the Internal Revenue Service, states, and the tax-prep industry to prevent ID theft involving pilfered Social Security numbers.

Thieves usually claim tax refunds by filing taxes before their victims do. So another way to protect yourself is to file long before the tax deadline, which is Monday, April 18, this year (April 19 in Maine and Massachusetts).

What Victims Can Do

You might not know you’ve been a victim of tax-related ID theft until you get an IRS notice. It might say that you collected wages from an employer you don’t recognize, for example, or that your Social Security number has been used on more than one return.

Report incidents of ID theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Then set up a fraud alert with one of the three big credit bureaus—Equifax  (888-766-0008); Experian (888-397-3742); or TransUnion (800-680-7289). The bureau you choose will share your alert with the other two; all three will give you a free credit report. You can also request that the bureaus issue security freezes to prevent any new credit from being issued without your permission.

At, fill out Form 14039, an Identity Theft Affidavit. The IRS will issue you an “identity protection personal identification number” (IP PIN) intended to prevent further fraud. (All residents of the District of Columbia, Florida, and Georgia—not just victims—can get IP PINs as part of an IRS pilot program.)

Avoid Other Scams

Fraud involving IRS impersonators spikes during tax filing season. Remember:

  • The IRS never asks for personal or financial information via email, text, or social media, and it will never contact you by phone to demand payment. Report suspicious email.
  • The agency will never ask for credit-card numbers over the phone, require payment without allowing you to question it or appeal, or threaten you with arrest for nonpayment.
  • Report fraud to the IRS by filling out this IRS form or calling 800-366-4484.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.