As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris is alerting Californians to the threat of tax-related identity theft and issuing tips on how consumers can protect themselves during the tax filing process.
Tax-related identity theft commonly occurs when thieves send phishing emails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), asking for personal information or including links to official-looking web sites. Thieves may also use stolen personal information to file tax returns in someone else’s name in order to obtain a refund.
Tax season safety tips
- Beware of unsolicited phone calls, emails or texts from anyone claiming to be from the IRS or the California Franchise Tax Board. If in doubt, contact the agency using the contact information in the Resources section below.
- Never open an email or a text message that says it is from the IRS or the Franchise Tax Board; they are always fraudulent. State and federal tax agencies never initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media to request personal or financial information or to send notice regarding audits or refunds.
If you think you have a tax identity theft problem or receive a letter from the IRS or the FTB stating that someone has already filed using your information, contact the agency. See the contact information in the Resources section below.
- When preparing your tax return for electronic filing, be sure to use a unique strong password on your online filing accounts. A strong password is eight or more characters, including letters, numbers and symbols. Use a unique password for each of your tax filing accounts.
- Think beyond the password. For greater security, you can get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) for your e-filing account with the IRS. A new PIN is provided each year by the IRS. See the Resources section for more information.
- Check on the availability of two-step authentication to protect your tax filing accounts (and other online accounts containing sensitive information, such as your email and social media accounts). Two-step authentication offers stronger protection than just a password and username. The process (also called login approval or multi-factor authentication) adds a second factor, such as a one-time use code that is sent to you by email, phone or text. You enter that code, along with your username and password, to get access to your account. For more on two-step authentication, see the Resources section below.
Internal Revenue Service
Identity theft: www.irs.gov/Individuals/Identity-Protection, www.irs.gov/Individuals/Indications-your-identity-may-have-been-stolen-and-how-to-report-it-to-us. 1-800-908-4490
Tax scams: www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts
Identity Protection PIN: www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-An-Identity-Protection-PIN
California Franchise Tax Board
Identity theft: www.ftb.ca.gov/individuals/id_theft.shtml
ID Theft Resolution Coordinator Web information: 916-845-3669
California Attorney General
Identity Theft Protection and First Aid: www.oag.ca.gov/idtheft