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When a stranger files for your refund

Consumer Reports Money Adviser: March 2013

Identity theft has been the top consumer complaint for many years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Almost 25 percent of ID-theft complaints relate to tax- or wage-related fraud. In the tax arena, thieves steal Social Security numbers, forge tax returns, and claim fraudulent refunds early in the tax season.

You may have been a victim of identity theft if you get an IRS notice saying that more than one federal tax return has been filed in your name. Alternatively, the agency might say that you have a balance due, a refund offset, or a collections against you in a year you didn’t file a return. Another red flag is an IRS letter showing income from an employer you don’t know.

If you suspect fraud, respond immediately to the name and number on the correspondence. You’ll also have to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. Alert the agency if you’ve recently had an experience that could result in identity theft, such as a lost or stolen purse or wallet. The toll-free number for the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is (800) 908-4490.

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