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No Vaccine for Tax Identity Theft

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Sarah Nicholas

You may be happy to put 2020 behind you. In addition to the pandemic, fraud was rampant last year, with over $137 billion in unemployment benefits presenting criminals with plenty of lucrative opportunities. Leslie Corbo, director of cybersecurity programs and associate professor of cybersecurity at Utica College, described the past year’s unemployment fraud as “…its own cyber pandemic.” With the economic disruptions of 2020 and millions of Americans still navigating unemployment, tax filing will likely be more complicated than usual. And fraudsters are counting on it.

Tax identity thieves and IRS imposters are eagerly anticipating tax season, even if you’re not. Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for taxes. Manipulators thrive in chaos, and you’ll have to be more vigilant this tax season than ever before.

Tax-related identity theft is a common scam. It occurs when someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number, to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.

January 25 marks the start of the fifth annual Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. You can commemorate it by taking these steps:

  • Be on the lookout for IRS imposters – people who call, direct message on social media, text or email you asking for personal or financial information or demanding payment. The IRS will never contact individual taxpayers requesting this information, and they will only notify you about tax-related identity theft by mail.

  • Learn the signs of tax identity theft*:

    • You can't e-file a return because one was already filed with the same EIN or SSN.

    • You get a rejection notice for a routine extension to file a request because a return with duplicate EIN or SSN is already on file.

    • You receive an unexpected tax transcript or IRS notice that doesn't match anything you submitted.

    • You receive a Letter 6042C or 5263C from the IRS.

    • You don't receive expected or routine correspondence from the IRS because the business address has been changed.

  • According to the IRS, if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must file a paper return.

  • There is a path to recovery if you are a victim of tax identity theft. Should you find yourself a victim, report it to the FTC.

  • For additional resources and information, bookmark this page:

*From the IRS website.

The best way to protect yourself against fraud this tax season is to take a few minutes to educate and equip yourself. Let’s start 2021 cyber-strong!

You can find many other helpful cybersecurity resources on our website. We also invite you to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. 


Written by: Sarah Nicholas

Sarah is the Director of Communications for Serendipity Communications. She lives in Plainwell, Michigan with her husband, daughters and stepson, with twin stepdaughters nearby. She is passionate about cyber safety education and animal rights and enjoys ballet dancing, reading and volunteering at her children’s school.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Ameris Bank is not affiliated with nor endorses any of the companies featured in this article.