In a recent press release, the IRS published its Dirty Dozen tax scams. Topping the list this year is Identity Theft.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number (SSN) or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. In many cases, an identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.
Combating identity theft and refund fraud is a top priority for the IRS. For the 2013 tax season, the IRS put in place a number of additional steps to prevent identity theft and detect refund fraud before it occurs.
The IRS has a comprehensive and aggressive identity theft strategy employing a three-pronged effort focusing on fraud prevention, early detection and victim assistance. According to the press release, during 2012, the IRS prevented the issuance of $20 billion of fraudulent refunds, including those related to identity theft, compared with $14 billion in 2011.
In January, 2013 the IRS also conducted a coordinated and highly successful identity theft enforcement sweep. The coast-to-coast effort against identity theft suspects led to 734 enforcement actions in January, including 298 indictments, informations, complaints and arrests. The effort comes on top of a growing identity theft effort that led to 2,400 other enforcement actions against identity thieves during fiscal year 2012. The Criminal Investigation unit has devoted more than 500,000 staff-hours to fighting this issue.
The IRS acknowledges that identity theft is a frustrating and complex process for victims and has assigned 3,000 people to work on identity theft related cases – more than double the number in late 2011. In addition, the IRS has trained 35,000 employees who work with taxpayers to help with identity theft situations.
The IRS has a special section on IRS.gov dedicated to identity theft issues, including YouTube videos, tips for taxpayers and an assistance guide. For victims, the information includes how to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit. For other taxpayers, there are tips on how taxpayers can protect themselves against identity theft.
The IRS urges taxpayers who believe they are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information to contact them immediately so the agency can take action to secure their tax account. Taxpayers can call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. More information can be found on the special identity protection page as well as at www.hvshred.com