Tell-tale Signs of Identity Theft Tax Pros Should Watch For
With identity thieves continuing to target the tax community, IRS Security Summit partners today urged tax professionals to learn the signs of data theft so they can react quickly to protect clients.
One common concern the IRS hears from tax professionals is that they did not immediately recognize the signs of data theft. Summit partners are urging tax professionals to watch out for these critical signs:
- Client e-filed returns rejected because client's Social Security number was already used on another return.
- More e-file acknowledgements received than returns the tax pro filed.
- Clients responded to emails the tax pro didn't send.
- Slow or unexpected computer or network responsiveness such as:
- Software or actions take longer to process than usual,
- Computer cursor moves or changes numbers without touching the mouse or keyboard,
- Unexpectedly locked out of a network or computer.
Tax professionals should also watch for warning signs when clients report they've received:
- IRS Authentication letters (5071C, 6331C, 4883C, 5747C) even though they haven't filed a return.
- A refund even though they haven't filed a return.
- A tax transcript they didn't request.
- Emails or calls from the tax pro that they didn't initiate.
- A notice that someone created an IRS online account for the taxpayer without their consent.
- A notice the taxpayer wasn't expecting that:
- Someone accessed their IRS online account,
- The IRS disabled their online account,
- Balance due or other notices from the IRS that are not correct based on return filed or if a return had not been filed.
These are just a few examples. Tax pros should ensure they have the highest security possible and react quickly if they sense or see something amiss.
If the tax pro or their firm are the victim of data theft, immediately:
- Report it to the local IRS Stakeholder Liaison. Liaisons will notify IRS Criminal Investigation and others within the agency on the practitioner's behalf. Speed is critical. If reported quickly, the IRS can take steps to block fraudulent returns in the clients' names and will assist tax pros through the process.
- Email the Federation of Tax Administrators at StateAlert@taxadmin.org. Get information on how to report victim information to the states. Most states require that the state attorney general be notified of data breaches. This notification process may involve multiple offices.
- Be pro-active with clients that could have been impacted and suggest appropriate actions, such as obtaining an IP PIN or completing a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit if applicable. See the early Security Summit reminder about the importance of IP PINs.
Find more information at Data Theft Information for Tax Professionals.