Use This IRS Security Tool to Protect Yourself From Refund Fraud

Illustration for article titled Use This IRS Security Tool to Protect Yourself From Refund Fraud
Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

Tax fraud has been a persistent security issue for years and it’s not letting up. In 2020, the Internal Revenue Service identified $2.3 billion in fraudulent schemes, and the agency’s prioritization of processing returns quickly can make it difficult to catch bad actors in the process. This week, the IRS announced the rollout of a sort of two-factor authentication for your taxes that will be available to everyone.

In a statement, the IRS said that it will open its Identity Protection PIN Opt-In Program to anyone who’d like to apply. Previously, the program was only available to taxpayers who’d been victims of tax fraud or identity theft in the past. The PIN is just a six-digit code that’s used to prevent others from trying to file a tax claim with your Social Security number. It’s like a Social Security number for your Social Security number, woohoo!

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just asking for a number and writing it down. You’ll first have to make it through the authentication process and provide a bunch of personal info. If something gets screwed up in that process, there are options to complete the authentication by mail, fax, or appointment. (Details are here.)

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Once you’ve made it through the application, you should be given a PIN number for authenticating the use of your Social Security number through your mobile phone. The number will only be valid for one fiscal year.

It’s a good thing to get in the habit of doing before the tax season, and if you’re someone who really counts on their refund each year, it’s essential. It seems like a hassle, but it’s not even close to the trouble of trying to get the IRS to fix your fraudulently-issued refund.

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