FTC warns consumers about tax-related identity theft

The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers that receiving an unexpected message from the Internal Revenue Service could mean your Social Security number has been breached.

OnGuardOnline.gov, which is managed by the FTC, is directing consumers to contact the IRS if they receive a notice that more than one tax return was filed in their name or if records show the consumer was paid by an employer they do not know. Either could be a sign of identity theft.

Criminals that obtain an individual's Social Security number and personal information can use it to file for a tax return and obtain a refund without the consumer being aware until the IRS informs them more than one return has been filed in their name.

Likewise, criminals or illegal immigrants have been known to use false Social Security numbers to pass pre-employment screening tests. An individual might be unaware their data was used by another to secure a job, which could lead the IRS to believe that consumer hasn't reported all of their income.

The FTC advises consumers who think their tax issues might stem from identity theft to contact the IRS as soon as possible, even if they lack proof. Specialists in the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit will help consumers file their returns, obtain any refund they are entitled to and protect their IRS accounts going forward.