Tell tale signs your client’s identity was stolen


The dreaded e-file failed error: a return already has been filed with this identification number. Did you transpose a client’s SSN? Did an old account already file for some reason?

Or, worst case scenario, your client’s social security number was compromised.

The duplicate SSN error message is always a red flag. Start by double checking that your client’s legal name is spelled correctly and that their SSN matches their documents. Once you have verified that your data entry is all accurate, it’s time to reach out to the taxpayer. There are possibly other possible scenarios but making them aware of a potential identity theft issue as early as possible will help them shut it down sooner rather than later.

The IRS provides access to a number of tools if your client has experienced identity theft. To start, direct your client to the IRS Fact Sheet on Identity Theft, found HERE.

The fact sheet contains the contact information directly to the IRS unit designated for addressing identity theft issues. The sheet also includes links to major credit bureaus.

Clients who fear they may have been victims of identity theft can benefit from running credit checks right away. This will help them identify any potentially fraudulent activity as well as provide them a list of accounts on their credit report that they may need to contact to close or protect.

Also, don’t forget that clients may need to contact their local state tax agency in addition to the IRS upon learning of potential identity theft.

Clients can pre-emptively request an Identity Protection Pin. Clients who are victims of identity theft are automatically assigned pins by the IRS, but one also can be requested using the IRS enrollment tool. Pins will be required on all future tax returns e-filed on behalf of the taxpayer, so make sure this is added to your records for annual preparation.

Remind your clients that the IRS will never contact them by phone or text message. Unless they are working with a specific agent who has previously been identified to them in a letter, the IRS still only communicates via mail. Reminding clients to avoid phishing scams that come via email and text is another small way we can help prevent identity theft.

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