Tax-related identity theft has become a growing threat as hackers and other thieves steal important personal information and use it to file tax returns in your name. That’s why the IRS and other experts recommend you do everything you can to keep your personal information safe – and to file your annual tax returns as early as possible in order to beat anyone else trying to file on your behalf. This type of identity theft happens when your Social Security number is stolen and someone uses it to file an individual or business tax return in your name and claim a refund. By filing before you, they get the refund money and you’ll be stuck fighting to straighten the mess out. Besides filing early, the IRS recommends you do everything you can to protect your personal information. That includes: - Not carrying your Social Security card in your purse or billfold. - Not clicking on links or downloading files from suspicious emails. - Not sharing debit and credit card or account numbers. - Hanging up on callers posing as IRS agents or financial institution officials who ask for personal information and threatening punishment. - Shredding paper documents with your personal information on them when you no longer need them. - Safely storing any tax documents. If you receive a valid notice from the IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice. The IRS won’t call you with threats of jail or lawsuits and won’t send you an unsolicited email suggesting you have a refund or that you need to update your account. And it will not request any sensitive information online via email or social media. These are all scams. If you believe you’re an identity theft victim, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 right away and also fill out the IRS Form. It’s recommended that you also: -File a complaint at identitytheft.gov - Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records. - Contact your financial institution. Be sure to do what you can to protect yourself by filing your tax returns early and guarding against ID theft. Visit irs.gov for more information about identity theft and tax scams.