Avoid Becoming a Victim of Tax-Related ID Theft — File Your Tax Return Early

The Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection reminds Montanans that one important way to protect themselves from tax-related identity theft is to file their returns well before the tax deadline, which is April 18 this year.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports there has been an increase in tax-related identity theft in recent years. “This type of identity theft occurs when a criminal uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “However, these tax refund thieves can only be successful if they file a tax returns in the victims’ names claiming refunds before their victims file, because the IRS only accepts one return per person per year.”

Attorney General Fox noted that taxpayers usually do not know they are the victims of tax-related ID theft until they receive a notice from the IRS after they have filed their tax return. The notice might indicate that your Social Security number has already been used on another return, or the notice might say that you collected wages from an employer for whom you did not work.

If you receive such a notice, you should take several steps to deal with the issue:
• First, fill out IRS Form 14039, Identify Theft Affidavit, which is available at www.IRS.gov. The IRS will issue you an “identify protection personal identification number” (IP PIN), which is intended to prevent future fraud.
• Second, set up a fraud alert with one of the three credit reporting bureaus. They include: Experian (www.Experian.com/fraud/center.html, 888-397-3742), Equifax (alerts.equifax.com/AutoFraud_Online/jsp/fraudAlert.jsp, 888-766-0008, and TransUnion (https://www.transunion.com/fraud-victim-resource/important-contacts 800-680-7289). The bureau you contact will share the information with the other two bureaus.
• Third, report the matter to local law enforcement.
• Fourth, review the Department of Justice’s Identify Theft web page. https://dojmt.gov/consumer/identity-theft/
• Fifth, report the matter to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov

It’s also key to remember 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. If you are contacted by anyone who claims to need personal identification or financial information from you, the best course of action is to hang up the phone, do not respond to the email or text, and do not click on any links. Find the company’s phone number in a phonebook, or by searching for it online, and call the company directly to ask if they do indeed need any information from you. A good rule of thumb to follow is don’t give out your identification or financial information to anyone over the phone or via electronic communication unless you initiated contact.

Because of the nationwide increase in identity theft and filing of fraudulent returns, the Montana Department of Revenue is taking more time to review returns to ensure they are valid. This means it will take longer for Montanans to receive their refunds than in previous years. “We want to make sure the returns we receive are really from you before we send you a refund, and this takes a little more time. We want to protect your money and we appreciate your patience if your refund takes a little longer to get to you,” said Department of Revenue Director Mike Kadas.

For more For more information on protecting your data, visit the IRS security webpage www.irs.gov/taxessecuritytogether, the Montana Department of Justice Office of Consumer Protection at https://dojmt.gov/consumer or the Montana Department of Revenue at revenue.mt.gov.