What do you do if fraudsters already filed a tax return using your ID? It's a question that's popping up now in the middle of tax season.
The con artists typically steal IDs and then file fake returns in January. Then, when the legitimate taxpayer tries to electronically file a return, it's a no-go. The real filer's return is rejected as a "duplicate" because a refund has been issued and the filer's Social Security number was already used to file a 2014 return.
All it takes is one compromised Social Security number for a married couple or family.
Discovering that a con artist used your ID to file a fake return is unsettling. Many people have no idea what to do, and I've received several calls this tax season. Here are some of the steps:
Step One: The Internal Revenue Service will require that you submit IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if scammers filed a fake return using your ID.
Form 14039 is designed so you can prove you're the real taxpayer.
So if your return is rejected as a duplicate when you e-file this season, Form 14039 needs to be filed. You'd check Box 1 in Section A if you're a victim of ID theft and the theft is affecting your federal tax records.
The form can also be used if the Social Security number of a deceased spouse or other deceased relative was used to file a fraudulent return.
Here's another twist: Form 14039 can be filed if your ID was compromised but not used yet to file a fake return. You'd have to see Box 2 on the form in such cases, such as if there's evidence of misuse of your personal information to obtain credit, or if you've had a home robbery or a purse stolen and your Social Security card was stolen.
Step Two: You'd still need to file your 2014 tax return if a fraudster already filed one using your ID. But you must do so by paper, not e-filing.
If you are unable to file your return electronically now because the primary and/or secondary Social Security number was misused, you'd attach Form 14039 and documentation to your paper return and submit it to the IRS location where you normally file.
Step Three: Recognize that it's going to take some time -- 120 to 180 days, according to one tax expert -- to get your refund if a crook filed a fake return with your ID.
Consumers need to take various steps, including filing a police report. You'd also need to file a complaint at the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov if you're a victim of tax-related ID theft.