First a victim of tax return identity theft, then a 2-year wait for a refund

Obtaining an IP PIN, however, can also take some time depending on whether you apply online, by mail, or in person. (Ms. Collins’s annual report said some taxpayers might find the online process “cumbersome.”) Filers may have been reluctant to participate because, previously, if you had voluntarily requested a pin, you couldn’t later change your mind and cancel. But that has changed, the IRS website says. If you have not been a victim of tax-related identity theft, you can now opt out of the pin program.

Melanie Lauridsen, vice president of tax policy and advocacy at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, advised working with a trusted tax preparer and having your tax information well organized so you can file early in the season, reducing the chances of a return. fraudulent. be archived first. “Delivered to preparer in a timely manner,” she said.

Other measures, including placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report, can also help protect sensitive information that could be used in identity theft.

Data breaches or leaks, which have become extremely common, can expose sensitive information to identity criminals. In 2023, there were 3,205 publicly reported data compromises – at healthcare providers, cable and cell phone companies, mortgage lenders and other companies – affecting more than 353 million people, a 78% increase from 2022, from according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit group that tracks breaches and assists victims. “They are the fuel for fraud,” said Eva Velasquez, the group’s chief executive.

In some cases, criminal networks are behind the data compromise. In a case filed in Texas last year, federal authorities charged seven people with fraudulently registering with the IRS as taxpayer representatives and obtaining personal information about filers, which they then used to file hundreds of fraudulent tax returns and obtain illegal refunds. All seven pleaded guilty to the charges.