A recently released report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates the IRS has uncovered 245,000 cases of identity theft relating to tax year 2010 alone. According to IRS attorneys, most of these cases involve unsuspecting taxpayers whose social security numbers were stolen and used by unscrupulous thieves to file false tax returns.
IRS attorneys reviewing the GAO’s report indicate the number of identity theft cases has increased approximate 364% increase in the past two years. These same IRS tax attorneys say that number may, in fact, understate the actual number of cases which have yet to be uncovered.
In light of the sharp rise of identity theft cases, IRS tax lawyers recommend you review the IRS’s list of 10 things every taxpayers should know about the issue. The agency claims that it provides taxpayers with this type of information to increase awareness and to offer tips for safeguarding information. Here are the IRS’s top 10 things to know about identity theft:
1. The IRS will not initiate contact with a taxpayer via email;
2. If you get an unsolicited email from the IRS, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Identify thieves can get your information through a number of means (steal your wallet/purse; posing as someone who needs your personal information – like a bank or insurance company; going through your trash; accessing an unsecure email account or internet site.)
4. If you find a web site claiming to be the IRS, and the URL doesn’t begin with www.irs.gov, report it to email@example.com.
5. Learn how to indentify unsecure websites, visit the Federal Trade Commission at www.onguardonline.gov/tools/recognize-secure-site-using-ssl.aspx.
6. If someone steals your social security number, they can give it to an employer to avoid paying taxes on their income
7. Your identity may have been stolen if the IRS notifies you there is more than one tax return on file for you during a particular year.
8. If your tax records have not yet been adversely affected by identify theft, but you believe you identity may have been compromised (i.e. lost wallet) you should follow the FTC guidance for reporting identity theft at www.ftc.gov/idtheft, and consider contacting the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 800-908-4490.
9. Show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a new job or to a financial institution for reporting purposes, but don’t carry the card around in your wallet routinely.
10. The IRS has information about identity theft reporting, phishing and related fraudulent activities on its website, www.irs.gov.
If you have been the victim of identity theft and your tax records have been compromised get help. Contact the IRS immediately, and if you need assistance fixing the problem, consider consulting a competent tax lawyer to get answers you may need to fix the problem.
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