The 2021 tax filing deadline for individuals has been extended until May 17, but the IRS and consumer advocates strongly recommend that taxpayers file as early as possible to avoid becoming victims of taxpayer identity theft. Taxpayer ID theft occurs when a fraudulent return is filed using your name without your knowledge. The resulting refund is sent to the scammer impersonating you, and you may not find out until you try to file your return.

The IRS says signs of taxpayer ID theft include:

  • You receive a letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return that you did not file.
  • You're unable to e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security number.
  • A tax transcript that you did not request shows up in your mail.
  • You get an IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name, or that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled without you taking any action.

To help prevent taxpayer ID theft, you should always be wary of phone calls and text messages that request your personal information. Fraudsters often impersonate the IRS or another government agency in an effort to verify the additional information they may need to file a tax return in your name.

The FCC and IRS warn that you should not provide personal information to any unknown caller. Always hang up and independently verify the caller's number before calling back. Keep in mind the IRS does not make outgoing calls from its toll-free numbers. If you see a toll-free number identified as the IRS on your caller ID, it's a spoofed call.

This year, for additional taxpayer protection, the IRS initiated a 6-digit Identity Protection PIN. To obtain an IP PIN, use the IRS's "Get an IP PIN" tool to opt into the program.

More helpful information from the IRS

  • The IRS generally contacts people first by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes, and never calls taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests.
  • The agency may attempt to reach you by telephone, but will not insist on payment using an iTunes card, gift card, prepaid debit card, money order, or wire transfer.
  • The IRS will never request personal or financial information – including a taxpayer's Identity Protection PIN – by e-mail, text, or any social media.

What should you do if you suspect an IRS tax scam?

The IRS advises taxpayers who suspect they may be victims of identity theft to continue to pay their taxes and file a return, even if they must file a paper return.

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment, you can take the following action:

  • If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, just hang up and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
  • If you do not owe taxes, fill out the "IRS Impersonation Scam" form on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration web site, or call 1-800-366-4484.
  • Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission. When reporting it, add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.
  • You can also file a complaint about phone scams with the FCC.