Do you know the warning signs that an identity thief is using your Social Security number?

FTC's Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week is a perfect time for consumers just like you to learn what identity theft is and how to protect yourself.

What is Identity Theft? 

Any type of identity theft can disrupt your finances, credit history, and reputation, and take time, money, and patience to resolve.

Often, identity thieves will use a Social Security number, mother's maiden name, date of birth, or account number to open fraudulent new credit card accounts, charge existing credit card accounts, write share drafts, open share accounts, or obtain new loans.

You may already know that identity theft is a serious crime.  You take steps to protect your personal information by not opening unrecognized emails and shredding important documents.  But, do you know how to recognize and prevent from becoming a victim of tax identity theft?

Tax identity thieves may use your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. If the IRS if sends you a notice saying their records show:

  • You were paid by an employer you don’t know, or
  • More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number,

contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

What Steps Can You Take To Prevent Tax Identity Theft?

  1. Get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS.
    What's an IP PIN? An IP PIN is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers that helps prevent the misuse of your Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns. You can’t use the IP PIN as your e-file signature PIN.  You can learn more about an IP PIN from the IRS.

  2. Check your mail and credit union account statements every month.
    If you discover an account you did not open, balance discrepancy, or a purchase you did not make, contact the financial institution or creditor immediately to report the activity.

  3. Monitor your credit reports on a regular basis.
    Do you really know what’s on your credit report?  Why it matters?  Or, how to obtain your three free credit reports annually?  You can find answers to these questions and more about credit reports and credit scores in NCUA’s Credit Reports and Credit Scores learning center.

  4. Talk to your credit union about the identity theft resources they may offer.
    Most credit unions offer or partner with companies that offer services and materials to help their members safeguard their accounts.

  5. Visit and Pocket Cents, NCUA’s financial literacy microsite, offer a wide range of informational articles on finance, fraud prevention, as well as multiple financial tools and resources.  Keep up to date with current hot topics on fraud prevention, savings, and debt reduction.

Uncovering Tax-Related Identity Theft

The IRS uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to make sure your filing is accurate and complete, and that you get any refund you are due. Identity theft can affect how your tax return is processed. An unexpected notice or letter from the IRS could alert you that someone else is using your SSN; however, the IRS doesn't start contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to

If someone uses your SSN to file for a tax refund before you do, the IRS might think you already filed and got your refund. When you file your return later, IRS records will show the first filing and refund, and you’ll get a notice or letter from the IRS saying more than one return was filed for you.

If someone uses your SSN to get a job, the employer may report that person’s income to the IRS using your SSN. When you file your tax return, you won’t include those earnings. IRS records will show you failed to report all your income. The agency will send you a notice or letter saying you got wages but didn’t report them. The IRS doesn’t know those wages were reported by an employer you don’t know.

Dealing With Tax-Related Identity Theft

If you think someone used your SSN for a tax refund or a job — or the IRS sends you a notice or letter indicating a problem — contact the IRS immediately. Specialists will work with you to get your tax return filed, get you any refund you are due, and protect your IRS account from identity thieves in the future.

CONTACT THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE: IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit
at 1-800-908-4490.
• Report the fraud.

• Send a copy of your police report or an IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039 [PDF] and proof of your identity, such as a copy of your Social Security card, driver’s license or passport.


• Record the dates you made calls or sent letters.

• Keep copies of letters in your files.

Other Steps to Repair Identity Theft

  1. Flag Your Credit Reports
    Call one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert on your credit report. The company you call must contact the other two so they can put fraud alerts on your files. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days. 

    Equifax 1‑800‑525‑6285      
    Experian 1‑888‑397‑3742
    TransUnion 1‑800‑680‑7289

  2. Order Your Credit Reports
    Each company’s credit report about you is slightly different, so order a report from each company. When you order, you must answer some questions to prove your identity. Read your reports carefully to see if the information is correct. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company.

  3. Create an Identity Theft Report
    An Identity Theft Report can help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stop a company from collecting debts caused by identity theft, and get information about accounts a thief opened in your name. To create an Identity Theft Report: 

      •   File a complaint with the FTC at or 1-877-438-4338; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Your completed complaint is called an FTC Affidavit.
      • Take your FTC Affidavit to your local police, or to the place where the theft occurred, and file a police report. Get a copy of the police report.


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