The Internal Revenue Services and its Security Summit partners are encouraging professional tax preparers to increase their efforts to inform clients about the IRS Identity Protection PIN Opt-In Program to combat tax-related identity theft.
IRS IP PINs are Now Available
The call came during the Security Summit’s annual summer campaign focused on tax professionals and taking steps to stop data theft from their offices. A spike in identity thefts was observed this past year with scammers using the pandemic, bogus emails, social media posts, and unexpected phone calls posing as IRS agents, and other tactics to steal people’s money and identity.
For security reasons, tax professionals cannot obtain an IP PIN on behalf of clients. Taxpayers must obtain their IP PIN.
What is an IP PIN?
Scammers often trick or hack their way into taxpayers’ tax professionals’ computer systems to access confidential data. They use the stolen data to file fraudulent tax returns which makes it more difficult for the IRS and authorities to detect. This is because the fraudulent returns use real financial information. In some cases, scammers may sell the tax preparers or taxpayer’s information to other fraudsters to file fraudulent tax returns.
The IP PIN is a security tool currently available to taxpayers from the IRS. This tool helps to make it more difficult for criminals to file false tax returns in the name of the taxpayer.
An Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is a six-digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The IP PIN is known only to you and the IRS and helps in verifying your identity when you file your electronic or paper tax return.
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“These identity protection numbers provide an extra layer of safety to protect people against tax-related fraud tied to using stolen personal information. Following work by the IRS, the IP PIN program is now available to anyone who can verify their identity. We urge tax professionals to encourage their clients to protect themselves through the IP PIN program”, said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.
Taxpayers can go to IRS.gov/getanippin to complete a thorough authentication check. Once authentication is complete, an IP PIN will be provided online immediately. A new IP PIN is generated every year for added security.
The IP PIN protects your taxpayer’s account, even if you are no longer required to file a tax return, by rejecting any e-filed return without your IP PIN.
Some Red Flags to Look for With Suspicious Communications
Unsuspecting taxpayers and tax professionals are often prime targets of criminals that are both tech- and tax-savvy. Tax scams often prey on stress and fear when targeting victims of identity theft. Remember the IRS will not call unexpectedly about a tax refund.
When you are approached by potential scammers you should know that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
The IRS will not threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying. Nor will it demand that taxes be paid without allowing taxpayers to question or appeal the amount owed.
Tax professionals who experience data theft can assist clients by urging them to quickly obtain an IP PIN. Even if a thief already has filed a fraudulent return, an IP PIN would still offer protections for later years and prevent taxpayers from being repeat victims of tax-related identity theft.
The IP PIN process for confirmed victims of identity theft remains unchanged. These victims will automatically receive an IP PIN each year.