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Tax ID theft victim? Get a copy of the fraudulent return filed in your name

Tax identity theft

We are heading into the heart of tax filing season. That means it's also prime tax identity theft time.

As part of its continuing efforts to fight cyber tax crime, the Internal Revenue Service this week launched a new web page, Identity Theft Central.

Among the areas this new IRS.gov section covers is what to do if you're a victim of tax identity theft.

The one that caught my eye was getting a copy of a fraudulent return that was filed in your name.

I know that my journalistic tendencies make me nosy in the first place. But if I ever was a victim of any crime, tax or otherwise, I'd want as must information as I could get about it and what was being done to solve it.

In the case of a 1040 filed by someone pretending to be me in order to get a fraudulent refund, I'd also want to see that fake filing. I suspect most of y'all would want a look, too.

Maybe you'd discover that it's "just" your Social Security number, which is awful, since that identifier is an entry point for other personal and financial data. Perhaps it was "only" a dependent's name used on the fake 1040, which also is awful, since they about your loved ones.

You get where I'm going here. So I want to know it all.

Thanks to the agency's Fraudulent Return Request Program, if you are an ID theft victim, the agency will send you a copy of the fake return. But you've got to follow the proper steps.

Here they are.

Fill out the form: The process starts with Form 4506-F, Identity Theft Victim's Request for Copy of Fraudulent Tax Return.

Form 4506-F fraudulent tax return request IRS excerpt

The form must be completed with your real identifying data. This includes:

  • Your name and Social Security number
  • Your mailing address
  • Tax year(s) of the fraudulent return(s) you are requesting

Due to federal privacy laws, you can request the fraudulent return only if your Social Security number was the one used as either the primary or secondary taxpayer on the fraudulent return.

Those privacy restrictions mean that the IRS cannot disclose any return information to a person listed only as a dependent.

Paper-only requests: Don't forget to sign your Form 4506-F. Like all taxpayers' transactions with the IRS, the agency wants you to literally sign off on it.

In this case, it means a real pen to paper John Hancock.

That requirement brings up another procedure point. This request cannot be made electronically.

You've got to download the fraudulent return request form, fill it out and mail it to the IRS at the following address:

Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Fresno, CA 93888-0025

If you prefer to use a private delivery service, send your request to:

Internal Revenue Service
5045 East Butler Avenue
Fresno, CA 93727 
"Identity Theft - Request for Fraudulent Return"

Third-party request steps: If you've handed over the fraudulent return tracking to someone else, that person will have to take additional steps.

The Form 4506-F must contain the third-party's —

  • Name and tax identification number (usually your Social Security number)
  • Relationship to the identity theft victim (for example, parent, legal guardian, or authorized representative)
  • Mailing address.
  • Centralized authorization file (CAF) number if you were assigned one by the IRS for an authorization that is on file with the IRS covering the requested tax year(s)
  • Tax year(s) of the fraudulent return(s) being requested

All that information is in addition to the taxpayer's name and Social Security number and mailing address.

And, of course, the third-party seeking the information must sign the form.

The Form 4506-F also must be accompanied by a copy of your documents demonstrating your authority to receive the requested tax return information, such as Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative; Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization; or a court order.

The IRS doesn't require the added docs if you're seeking return information for your minor child as a parent or legal guardian. They're also waived if your authority to obtain return information for the requested tax year(s) is on file with the IRS and you are providing your CAF number.

Form limits, special requests: Right now, the IRS will only accept requests for fraudulent tax returns filed using Forms 1040, 1040-NR or 1040NR-EZ.

You can, though, request copies of fraudulent returns filed using those forms for the current tax year and previous six tax years.

Note, too, that if the address you entered on your Form 4506-F is not the same as the one the IRS has your address of record, you're copy request will be rejected.

This is just another recent to keep the IRS in the loop if you move. You can resubmit your request of a copy of the fraudulent return after the IRS processes your address change.

Fraudulent return turnaround: The IRS knows you're anxious to get a look at the fake filing, but just how long it will take for you to get a copy of the fraudulent 1040 depends. (You knew that was the answer, right?)

There are several factors that could affect the delivery of the fake return.

A key one is whether there are any open, unresolved issues with a tax return for a tax year requested. "These are very complex cases," says the IRS on its website, "and we will need to resolve the underlying identity theft case before we can provide the return."

Generally, though, the IRS says it will acknowledge your request within 30 days of receipt and within 90 days you will receive the return or follow-up correspondence.

A look at some, not all, info: When you do get the fraudulent return, be prepared, if you're a tell-me-all kind of person like me, to be disappointed. You are going to see less than you wanted.

Your copy of the falsely filed 1040 will be masked, which is the replacing of information with something else, like ###-#### in place of a phone number, or redacted, which is the total blacking-out or removing of information that is personally identifiable, sensitive, confidential or classified.

The IRS table below details what won't be visible on your copy of the fraudulent return:

 Return Information

 Masked / Redaction

 Names of all individual persons
 listed on the tax return, forms
 or schedules

 Entire name except the first
 four letters of the last name
 (If the last name is 4 letters or less,
 then fewer than 4 letters of the
 last name will remain visible.)

 All addresses on the tax return,
 forms or schedules

 Entire address except the first
 six spaces of the street line

 Names and address of all other persons
 or entities on return

 Entire name and address

 Taxpayer identification numbers
 (Social Security number/SSN
 or Individual Taxpayer Identification
 Number/ITIN) and employer
 identification numbers (EIN)

 Entire number except
 the last four digits

 Personally identifiable numbers, such as
 Designee's Personal Identification
 Number (DPIN), Preparer’s Tax
 Identification Number (PTIN), etc.

 Entire number except
 the last four digits

 IP address and names
 of software companies

 Entire name and address

 Telephone number(s)

 Entire number except
 the last four digits

 Bank routing and account number(s)

 Entire number except
 the last four digits

 Signature

 Entire signature


Don't fall victim in the first place:
Of course, the ideal situation is that you never become a tax identity theft victim.

Sometimes it happens when things aren't under your control. A company or doctor's office or other entity with which you do business could be hacked, exposing your data to criminals.

But there are some steps all of us can take to safeguard our personal information and prevent tax identity theft.

If you're in one of the 19 states or Washington, D.C., you can get a pre-filing IRS Identity Protection PIN to fight tax identity theft.

Always be sure to secure your mobile devices before making online tax moves.

Peruse my post on the variety of ways to stymie tax identity theft attempts and scams.

And if you're already become a tax fraud, fake filing or scam victim, check out what to do if you're an ID theft victim.

You also can digitally thumb through all my posts on tax scams and tax identity theft (this post will show up first; keep scrolling for the rest), as well as visit IRS.gov's aforementioned Identity Theft Central.

Let's all stay safe out and on there and have a happy 2020 tax filing season!

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