Someone stole my identity. Now what?

The 2007 tax season brought me an unpleasant surprise: my (e-filed) federal tax return was rejected. The Federal EF Rejection Diagnostics form indicated the problem:

“Reject: Error Code 0515: Your Social Security number cannot be used more than once in the return or on another return.”

Apparently someone had already filed a tax return using my name and Social Security number. A classic case of identity theft. So what do I do now?

I started by visiting the local IRS office. After waiting a couple of hours, I talked to a nice lady who appeared genuinely surprised to learn about my problem. Based on the IRS computer record, the person using my identity filed his (her?) tax return in New York, NY (I’m in Northern California). The IRS lady instructed me to send my tax return forms via regular mail and recommended to contact Social Security Administration to make sure it did not issue a duplicate number (I can’t imagine how this can happen, but who knows). She also suggested to file ID theft reports with the Federal Trades Commission (FTC) and police.

From the IRS office, I headed straight to Social Security Administration. As I suspected, my number had not been issued to anybody else (duh!) and my record (address, employer, etc) looked fine.

Then I called Equifax to set up a fraud alert. Equifax promised to alert the other two credit bureausExperian and TransUnion — and indeed, a few days later I received confirmation letters from both of them (I did not have to call them). I do not remember if I requested a credit report, or if it was part of the fraud alert process, but in about two weeks, I also got my credit report from Equifax (in future, I would recommend getting a credit report first, because once a fraud alert is set, getting a credit report will be more difficult). I did not find any suspicious activities in the credit report.

Next stop was the local police station (I think police reports are supposed to be filed at the department based on the home address). An officer filed an identity theft report and gave me the report number. Several days later, I got a call from an investigating officer, who said that they would’ve transferred my case to New York, but since they did not know the exact address of the scammer, they did not know which precinct should’ve handled the case. He said that they would transfer the case to IRS (I assume, to the Criminal Investigation unit).

Finally, I filed an ID theft complaint with FTC. The FTC form and instructions are a bit confusing. For example, in one section, it asks for the information related to police report (name of police department where report was filed, report number), but the instructions tell you to take the FTC complaint form to police so it can be filled there. I guess the order does not matter as long as both FTC and police are notified.

About a month later, I called IRS to check out the status of my case. I did not find out much. An IRS representative mentioned that my tax return still listed the New York address (which, I assumed, was phony) and that the case was handled by a different department. She said that I should expect IRS to contact me within 45 days of the call. I think this is the same promise I heard in the IRS office, but it has not been 45 days, yet, so I’ll be waiting. Based on accounts of other people who experienced the same problem, I do not expect a quick resolution. I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, here are some suggestions for people who run into a similar problem.

First, report the problem to IRS. Either visit a local IRS office or call the advertised number (1-800-829-1040; you may need to check the number in case it changes). If you call, you need to navigate the maze of voice prompts to get to a real person, and you may get a message saying that there are too many callers. Don’t give up, try calling at a different time. For example, I had to wait about 10 minutes around 4 PM PST on Monday before reaching a person, while a few hours before I got disconnected because of the high call volume. When you talk to an IRS representative, try to find as much about the thief as possible (reported address, date when tax return was filed, etc). Also record the representative’s name and ID. And mark the date, so you do not forget to follow up if you do not hear from IRS within 45 days. Second, contact Social Security Administration to verify your personal information: address, employer, etc. It’s very unlikely that someone else gets your Social Security number, but check it just in case. Third, request credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and then set up a fraud alert (you can set up a fraud alert at one of the credit bureaus). Forth, file a police report with your local police department. Record the report number. Fifth, submit an ID theft complaint to FTC. Finally, call IRS again to verify that your case is being investigated.

Here are some helpful links:
What can I do if I think someone has filed a tax return using my social security number?
What To Do If Your Personal Information Has Been Compromised
Identity Theft and Your Tax Records
Has Your Identity Been Stolen?
ID Theft Complaint Instructions
Recover From Identity Theft
Your Access to Free Credit Reports
Helping Victims

More on IRS and identity theft in the news:
IRS Promises Identity Theft Protection in Testimony to Senate Committee
IRS chief to tackle identity theft

See also:
12 steps for victims of identity fraud
Why is IRS withholding my tax refund?
How to Deal With Identity Theft

UPDATE: My case was eventually resolved in July 2008 with the help from Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). After a trip to a local IRS office and three phone calls which despite the promises led nowhere, an IRS representative suggested that I open a case with TAS, which I did (actually, the same IRS representative opened the case for me). Within a few days, I got a phone call from a TAS worker, who was genuinely nice and seemed to be eager to help me. She asked me to mail (or fax) her a copy of my tax return, police report, and documents confirming my identity. She promised to call me back in a couple of weeks and gave me the timeline (i.e. when I could expect the case to be resolved, etc). She called me a few more times to inform me on the progress and finally, when I got my return (with small interest), to close the case. Overall, I was very impressed with the TAS service. She told me that may file was marked in case someone tries to use my SSN for tax return in future, so I’ll see how it goes in 2009.

UPDATE: Per Jonnelle Marte:

“You can report suspected identity theft to the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.”

UPDATE: It’s amazing, but six years later IRS is still clueless. Watch
Biggest IRS scam around: Identity tax refund fraud (“60 Minutes”). The funniest part:

There were more hearings in 2011 and another in 2012 with deputy IRS Commissioner Steve Miller.

Steve Miller: We cannot stop all identity theft, however we are better than we were and we will get better still.

In those ensuing years, the number of cases of stolen identity refund fraud has risen from 51,000 to nearly three million.

Better, indeed.

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65 thoughts on “Someone stole my identity. Now what?

  1. My husband and I had the same thing happen to us, and the IRS is still lost. They are now trying to get us to pay taxes on income that the other person who filed with the wrong Social Security number incurred. We did find out that the other person was paid the Stimulus, so that may be why they can’t find him and why he filed with the wrong number to begin with. We appreciate the information provided and will try again with the IRS.

  2. I went to Turbo Tax on 1/23 to file my taxes as I do every year. When I went to transmit my taxes, I to received a message like yours. It is very frustrating to say the least! They used EVERYTHING of mine, the only thing they changed was the routing and account number DUH! I have followed all of your steps after visiting the IRS office, but I need to go back, because I would like to know if they used Turbo Tax to file? They used my W-2 so I am suspicious of a hacker issue with Turbo? I will let you know what I find out if anything!

  3. you know Kim – that’s possible. What you said made me think, you keep past tax return PDF’s / Turbo Tax files in your ‘My Documents.’ If someone were to hack into your computer, those would house a lot of info. I just got the error you all are talking about for my 2009 return – calling the IRS this week. Wish me luck. Haha. Thanks for the info!!!!

  4. I HAVE A FEW QUESTIONS WHAT DO I DO IF LAST YEAR I LOSTED MY WALLET AND MONEY AND INSIDE OF MY PURSE WAS A W-2 FORM FROM WORK. WELL AS SOON AS I LOST IT CONTACTED THE IRS AND EXPLAINED TO THEM THE SITUATION. I WAS TOLD THAT IF SOMEONE TRY TO ATTEMP TO FILE MY TAX THEY WILL NOTIFY ME WITH IN 45 TO 60 DAYS.THIS YEAR I TRYED TO FILE MY TAXES,I’M WAS TOLD THAT THERE WHERE A PROBLEM WITH MY TAX FROM LAST YEAR,AND THAT THEY NEEDED ME TO VARIFY SOME INFORMATION.I EXPLAIN TO THE LADY, THE SAME THING I’M TELLING YOU,WELL I WAS TOLD THAT I HAD TO FILL OUT A 8862. WHAT CAN I DO IN ORDER TO FILE MY TAX THIS YEAR WITH NO PROBLEMS, AND HOW DO I GO BY CORRECTING THE PROBLEM AFTER THE IRS TELLS ME THAT THERE’S NOTHING THEY CAN DO,AND THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TELL ME ABOUT ANYTHING BECAUSE IT WASN’T ME THAT FILED MY TAXES.

    THANK YOU

  5. the same thing happen to me…but
    the local police told me to do my own investagestion..the person who did this to me filled her own kids on my tax return an had gas runnin in my name..even with the evidence they still wont do anything..how stupid!! thanks for the advice..

  6. Thank you for sharing the information, as the exact same thing just happened to me when my e-filing got rejected. I have followed all the steps so let’s hope IRS and my state tax board can get this problem resolved ASAP. It is a frustrating experience for sure. I have the address of the fake person (in the same city as mine) but I doubt the police would do anything.

  7. I have something to share with you,the last year i started to get divorce from my husband but he has left home when I wasn’t there and the has stolen my personal information like the copy of this documents the social security card, residence card, passport,resume and some other stuff,but I am scared because he may be doing something with that also is almost time to renew his green card so he could do something,what can I do to report an issue like this?

  8. I would like to know exactly how long did it take to have your case resolved, i have been waiting . My situation started in January of 2010 when i filed my 2009 taxes, i was assigned a taxpayer advocate in june of 2010 and now it is september of 2010 and im still waiting this is so frustrating. what do i do?

    • I think my case was resolved by August. I would keep bugging them on a weekly basis (them meaning, IRS, taxpayer’s advocate). Btw, my taxpayer’s advocate gave me the deadlines when to expect resolution. Did yours give you the deadline?

  9. I have a questions about my mother in laws situation that she is going through. The problem is that she doesn’t know how to speak english or write besides just writing her name. Her problem is that someone has stolen her SSN to apply for credits cards and has been making payments for the card but recently has stopped. Now she wants to find out who has stolen her identity. Can anyone give me any ideas or what can i do to help this situation that she is going through.

    • She should first inform the credit card company. At the same time she should file an identity theft report at a local police station and ID theft complaint at FTC. Then set up a fraud alert at any of the three credit agencies. It’s not likely that she would get the name of the thief.

  10. tried to file my taxes efile . today i got an email that my last year return number didn’t match called the irs because i didn’t file last year. the irs said that i did file and that a refund of 5 grand was sent to me. problem is it was sent to Colorado. i don’t live in that state for one. second it was not efiled it was mailed in. third the check was sent and chashed. now she also found that a few years prior my taxes where filed and i received 4 grand . problem was i was deployed in the army during that time and i didn’t work other then the military that year 07 not 06 just for the o your id was stolen with the rest of the va comments that i might get . i was not a veteran at that time. now that check was not sent out but a return letter was and was never responded to. im trying to figure out how someone could have gotten my w-2 all4 of them for last year file them in this state have the check sent to colorodo and get it cashed with out knowing my true signature . in the military we where told to add a minute what ever to are signature and only tell a loved one in case we where captured in action they could tell if anything signed by a ow was real or not. so it’s impossible to copy my handcock. but yet it was done the more safe way then online. any clue

    • Sam, I don’t think con artists need your W-2 to get the return. They just enter whatever amounts that make sense to them to maximize the return. Which makes me wonder: since employers submit W-2 to IRS too, why doesn’t IRS compare the amounts with the returns. Anyway, prepare to a long hassle straightening this out. Please post the result (which may be helpful for others).

  11. I found out the same thing.
    Filed on 4/18 via taxact.com, on 4/19 found out it was rejected due to IRS already received a return using my SSN.
    Called IRS, reported to credit bureaus, FTC, SSA, and have to file a police report.
    Will check with TAS to see what they could do.

    Will update when i have more updates.

  12. I just found out today someone tried to file a tax return in my name thru Turbo Tax. When I spoke to the woman at Turbo Tax she didn’t think i needed to call the IRS to report it because it did not go thru, I got off the phone with her and called IRS to start the identity theft process. Interesting how many of these cases seem to revolve around Turbo Tax.

  13. How could someone file a tax return without your W-2 unless they are getting your information from a site that you have e-filed before. They not only need your social security number but you also have to give your employee ID #. My friend just called me today to tell me that this has happened to her today. She filed taxes last night and was emailed this morning to say that there was a problem. When she called she was told her taxes were already filed.

    • My understanding is that they do not need your W-2 info, since they just make up employment info. Why IRS would not catch the discrepancy between the W-2 info submitted by employer and the fake submission, that’s beyond me.

  14. The IRS doesn’t actually get the employer submitted W2’s until June/July as they go to the Social Security administration first. This is how identity thieves are able to steal off of us as the IRS has nothing to check against and are in a crunch to get everyone’s refunds issued within a few weeks. There is a delay this year in refunds because the IRS is trying to be more diligent in catching the fraudulent tax returns before issuing refunds. (They got hit hard last year, I’m told.)

    Someone filed a return under my name and social this year claiming an extraordinary amount of income and withholding, requesting a refund of $27,842! My refunds are usually $4000-$5000 so the IRS had already flagged my account for further review when I called. The lady at the IRS said that all the ducks were in a row in the tax form, but the amount of the income/refund vs past tax returns required a more in depth look. The thieves didn’t get anything off my return, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get it off of others who don’t get flagged. And smarter thieves who keep the refund amounts low may go undetected.

    I’m just starting the identity theft mess and not looking forward to what the future holds. I was told that my refund and status will take 90 days or longer to process now. Joy.

  15. By the way, I’ve also used Turbo Tax for YEARS. Seems to be a pattern here? The lady at the IRS told me that when filing online MAKE SURE TO GO TO THE IRS SITE FIRST AND CONNECT TO YOUR TAX SOFTWARE THROUGH THEM. So don’t just go to http://www.whatevertaxsite.com as she said the crooks make fake sites that the redirect takes you to. Once they have your password and user name, can access your past returns.

  16. We are in the same situation. My accountant called me last week to tell me that our refund was rejected. I called the IRS, FTC and filled a police report. When I talked to the IRS I was told that I would see my refund… in about 7-10 months! There has to be a better way for the IRS to process cases of ID fraud. Its a crying shame that us innocent, law abiding taxpayers are having to wait forever for our due return. We are now facing a hardship because we always pay certain bills for the year with our refunds. I’ll also keep everyone on here update with any progress. Good Luck Everyone!

  17. I just checked the “wheres my refund” and it is now giving me an expected return date for late April! I hope this is right. I saw somewhere else, that a person dealing with the same thing as we are that it would take 8-12 weeks this year. I sure hope this is right, and not just another step in the process.

  18. Yeah the same thing happened to me but i found out after my 2011 taxes had been filed that they were reject so i had to mail them in. when i first spoke to the agent she told me that someone may have typed the wrong social security number but something told me to called after the same thing happen to my boyfriend we were planning a wedding and really depending on this refund to pay for everything.When i called back thats when they told me it was identity theft and i had to go through the normals steps i filed 02/6/2012 and was expecting a refund 2/16/2012 then this happened so i mailed them in 2/17/2012 and i just look on wheres my refund it say it is in process and i should recieve a refund around april should i believe this? its very fustrating

    • I think there is little chance of you getting refund in April. I’d call IRS and talk to someone to get a better idea of the expectations. Again, based on my experience, most of the dates promised to me before transfer to taxpayer advocate services were not met.

    • Ciera, I mailed mine in on the exact same date! I checked the “where’s my refund”, and it gave me the late April date. Alek is right. I called the IRS fraud hotline again the other day and was told that the April date was not right, that they hadn’t even scanned my info into the system yet. I think if we call them on a regular basis, and use the advocate service, we may get lucky and get them this summer. Good luck with your wedding, I hate to hear that happened to you. I know what its like to depend on that check. We gutted our LR and daughters bedroom, we were going to remodel with ours.

  19. I’ve been checking the “where’s my refund” daily, today it was updated and the date was moved up to a closer date. I want to call the IRS again, but I really don’t have 2 hrs to waste on hold.

  20. same thing here they told me i have to what 6months to a yaer or more i hope not thats is too long to wait and i’m tired of calling them they make me more madder

    • Dang, hopefully they’ll get it straightened out soon. Sure feels like the IRS treats the victims like criminals when it comes to getting our refunds. They need to see that we’ve sent in that fraud form, and the required ID’s and send us our returns. Its the IRS’s fault we’ve had this happen. We shouldn’t have to wait for them to sort it out.

  21. right and i got my state return back even though the crimnals file that too but i got that quick without any extra paper work

    • Me too! We got ours last week. I didn’t think we would. The IRS told me they would inform the State of the ID fraud, and at the time I though wow! how nice of them! hehe

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we all get our federal refunds back next month, hopefully the new department that they have working on them this year speeds the process up.

  22. Same thing happened to me on Feb.8th 2012. I tried to e-file using Turbo Tax and received the same error message as you guys. I called the IRS and told them I was just filing now and he said there was a refund already processing with my SS#. Thing is, I told them and sent in everything they needed the next day and they still deposited a whopping $19,422 into the fraudalent account. Kept checking “Where’s my refund” and the date said April 3rd and on April 3rd it said received and is being processed. Finally called and IRS rep told me it could take 90 days or longer from the date the starting processing my return which was March 8th.

    • I wish I could find out the amount that someone claimed at my expense. You’d think such a large amount would have raised a red flag and called it into question. Good Luck, I sure hope its only going to be a 90 day (or less) wait from here.

      • The IRS wouldn’t tell me anything so I downloaded the app IRS 2 go and you can request a tax record to be mailed to you. I did and they showed the amount and it was direct deposited the exact same amount to the penny into 3 seperate accounts on Feb. 14th.

      • Wendy that is absolutely wonderful news!!! It gives me hope that maybe within the next couple of weeks, mine will be deposited also. My 90 day mark is June 8th!!!

      • No. I did call (on hold almost 1.5 hrs) and asked if it had been assigned to anyone. The person I spoke with put me in line to get someone assigned to my account, and 2 weeks later we had our money. The gal I spoke with told me when I did get assigned to a case manager to ask them to release my funds while they worked on my account if they had not already done so.
        I hope this helps you. :)

    • Sherry, I totally understand. I had to get a tax advocate and did so last week. She told me that I should have a manual refund mailed to me in about 3 weeks. My 90 day mark was up on June 8th and nothing…..No letter from the IRS no date on WMR…absolutely nothing. It is very frustation to be told a different story from every agent you speak with. I wish you the best of luck!!!

  23. HELLO EVERYONE, I FILED MY TAXES ELECTRONICALLY WITH H & R BLOCK END OF JANUARY 2012 AND 2 DAYS LATER IT WAS REJECTED AND I WAS TOLD I WAS A VICTIM OF IDENITY THEFT. I WAS TOLD TO SEND THE IRS COPIES OF MY DL,SS CARD TAX RETURN, POLICE REPORT AND AFFADAVIT SIGNED BY ME SAYING I WAS A VICTIM OF IDENITY THEFT NOW WE ARE AT THE END OF JUNE AND I HAVE HEARD NOTHING FROM THE IRS AND MY RETURN IS $6500 I HAVE BEEN CALLING AND CALLING AND GETTING THE RUN AROUND . NOW THE AGENT THAT I SPOKE TO TODAY SAID THAT NO ONE IS ASSIGNED TO ME AND SHE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND WHY BECAUSE I SHOULD HAVE HEARD FROM SOMEONE. THE AGENT IS GOING TO PUT IN A REQUEST FOR A SUPERVISOR TO LOOK AT MY CASE AND I SHOULD HEAR SOMETHING BY THE MIDDLE OF JULY. THE AGENT SAID IF I DON’T HEAR ANYTHING BY THE MIDDLE OF JULY THEY WILL THEN REQUEST AGAIN A SUPERVISOR TO LOOK AT MY CASE. WHAT IS GOING ON. I HAVE PROVEN WHO I AM WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY MONEY THAT I WORKED HARD FOR. :(

    • Nikki, that’s actually a step in the right direction. I just went through the SAME ordeal, and it wasn’t until “they put in a request for me” that anything happened. The gal I spoke with at the IRS told me that once I was assigned to someone to ask for my funds to be released to me while they worked on my case. Try that. And I never even spoke to the agent that is handling my case. After that last phone call, and that request was put in, my tax return was released to my bank account within 2-3 weeks. I sure hope your case works like mine did. They didn’t even tell me they were doing it. I just so happened to be checking my bank account and there it was! GOOD LUCK! :)

      • I am still waiting on my refund from Feb.8th. I had to get a Tax Advocate and she tells me I should have my check by July 18th. She told me they could not direct deposit it but had to send a manaul check via mail. Good Luck to everyone that is still waiting!!!

      • That’s a shame. I hope you get it soon. They directly deposited mine into our bank account. There may be different circumstances as to why they can’t DD yours?

      • I finally received my refund check on 7/16. It has been a long 5+ months buts it’s over. Thanks to my Tax Advocate she was able to get the ID Theft information removed from my account and the correct information entered and my refund processed. They even paid me a little interest for the delay. Best of luck to those still waiting and I will keep you in my prayers!

  24. did you have to show proof that u needed your tax money right away i want to use the tax advocate service but they ask if i was in a bad situation that i needed my money now

    • Yes, I told them I was in a bad situation and once they assigned the advocate, I had to fax her proof that I was in need.

      • So i got my 2011 taxes money in October now to only wait again this year because they didn’t tske me out of the system yet smh

  25. Not a lot of posts in 2013. Is that a good sign? My husbands identity was stolen 2012 return. The IRS sent a letter out from the AUR department to the address the identity theft person used and the IRS disclosed MY ss# and bank account # So now I have to file an identity theft affidavit with the IRS telling them that the IRS misused my SS# And as far as your return? Oh we have up to 180 days from the date they received my return into their system (3/15/13) and the date of the notice WE received the notice from the IRS stating we were victims of identity theft. Notice dates: Identity theft confirmation 3/12/13 the AUR letter goes to wrong address 4/8/13. Anyone else have this experience?

  26. I don’t know about 2013, but I’ll be the first to report for this year. Lucky for us, the tax refund check actually arrived at OUR house! When I checked the “where’s my refund” site, the status said something like it was mailed to us as the direct deposit bank returned it. So maybe the banks are getting smarter about it!

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