With data breaches happening everywhere from Target to Equifax, it’s likely that your personal information has been compromised.
Few things are worse than working hard all year and finally sitting down to file your taxes only to find out a scammer got hold of your Social Security number, has already filed for you, and has taken the tax refund that’s rightfully yours.
That’s why the Federal Trade Commission and the IRS just took a step to ease some of stress if you ever need to report tax-related identity theft.
They created the secure website IdentityTheft.gov to help you file an electronic report and walk you through the steps you need to take to start putting your life back together again.
Before now, the only way to report tax-related identity theft to the IRS was to manually file. If you are a victim and need to report, remember that the new website is the only place to electronically report your claim.
What the FTC Says to Do When Your Identity Is Stolen
According to an FTC checklist on IdentityTheft.gov, victims of identity theft need to do a few things immediately when they realize their information has been used fraudulently:
- Call the companies where you know fraud occurred. Speak with someone in the fraud department and explain that your identity has been stolen and ask them to freeze your accounts. Then make sure to change your logins, passwords and PINs for your accounts.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. It’s free to do. Just contact the three credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — online or over the phone. The fraud alert lasts 90 days.
Here’s another idea: Credit Sesame helps you avoid identity theft by keeping a watchful eye your finances.
Credit Sesame’s free identity theft protection will alert you to important changes in your credit report (like someone trying to apply for credit in your name), and it offers $50,000 in identity theft insurance.
- Report the identity theft to the FTC. Complete the online form and be ready to provide as many details as possible. Once your information is submitted, you will get a personalized recovery plan telling you what to do next based on your situation.
You will have the option to create an account where all your information and recovery plan will be saved. If you choose not to create an account, you can still file a report, but you won’t be able to access the form or the personal recovery plan again online. You will have to print your own copy if you need to reference it later.
IdentityTheft.gov has even more things you can do after you’ve taken the immediate steps. For example, if a scammer opened new accounts in your name, you should close them, and you may also want to file a police report in case criminal charges can be filed.
Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at ThePennyHoarder.com. She writes about how government and court action impact your wallet.