Bottom Line: IRS Anti-scam efforts slows down your refund and your life
Don’t be surprised if the IRS asks you to prove who you are. The IRS selectively requires certain taxpayers to answer a series of questions to verify their identities—it’s a way to spot-check for scammers who file phony tax returns in victims’ names and then steal their refunds.
The IRS doesn’t disclose how it selects taxpayers for this ID-verification process, but a recent address change or unusually large refund request could increase the odds.
If you answer a question incorrectly during the verification process, you may be required to verify your identity in person at the nearest Taxpayer Assistance Center, which might be hours away. And unfortunately, if you receive a letter, it can delay your refund for several weeks.
Worse: Scammers have begun using this IRS ID-verification process as the basis for a new scam. The scammer calls or e-mails victims…claims to work for the IRS…then asks the victim for personal information to confirm his/her identity. The information that the victims provide is used to steal their identities and possibly their money.
What to do: Ignore any supposed IRS ID-verification calls and e-mails—the real IRS contacts taxpayers about ID verification only through the mail. (These mailings often give taxpayers the option of calling the IRS or visiting its website to resolve the matter.) If you receive an ID-verification letter, confirm that it truly is from the IRS by checking the phone number provided—800-830-5084 is the real IRS Identity Verification line. If a different number is listed, call the IRS general number, 800-829-1040, to confirm that your ID-verification letter is legit.
Gather your past few years of tax returns before contacting the IRS to verify your identity. The IRS multiple-choice ID-verification questions will be culled from your past returns, and occasionally the information requested is obscure. Example: What company financed your auto loan in 2017?