Every dollar counts, now more than ever, as the government searches for ways to wisely spend our money. It’s dismaying to learn that an audit report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has found that the impact of identity theft on tax administration is significantly greater than the amount the IRS detects and prevents. Even worse, the “IRS uses little of the data from identity theft cases…to detect and prevent future tax refund fraud” according to Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.
The IRS is detecting far fewer fake tax returns than are actually falsely filed. 938,700 were detected in 2011. On the other hand, TIGTA identified 1.5M additional undetected tax returns in 2011 with potentially fraudulent tax refunds totaling in excess of $5.2B.
The study predicted that the IRS stands to lose $21B in revenue over the next 5 years with new fraud controls, or $26B without the new controls.
You may think your deceased loved ones are safe from having their identities stolen. Not true! The Death Master File contains data about millions of deceased people including the full name, Social Security number and other personal information. Though you’d think this would be carefully guarded, the Social Security Administration provides the file to the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS). NTIS, in turn, distributes it to more than 450 entities including state and local governments, hospitals, universities, financial institutions, insurance companies and genealogy services. Even worse, anyone can access the information through the NTIS website. The cost? $10 for one person or an annual subscription with unlimited access to all of the files of deceased individuals costs $995.
The IRS admittedly has little control over protecting your tax returns against identity theft. The problem is too big, the data too widely available, prevention too rarely attended to until it’s already too late. Your tax returns are the Holy Grail of identity theft because they contain virtually every piece of information a fraudster needs to BECOME you. But you don’t have to be a victim; you simply need to take responsibility for what is rightfully yours – your tax return information and your identity. The changes aren’t difficult, they simply require you read through this document so that you recognize the risks. Once that’s done, you simply avoid the highest-risk behaviors.
Here is a comprehensive list of frauds, scams and high risk tax-time practices.
It’s nerve racking to realize that the IRS increasingly struggles to control taxpayer identity theft. Since 2008, the IRS has identified 470,000 incidents of identity theft affecting more than 390,000 taxpayers. “Victims of tax-related identity theft are the casualties of a system ill-equipped to deal with the growing proficiency and sophistication of today’s tax scam artists” said Sen. Bill Nelson, who chairs the newly formed Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth.
The number of identity theft victims rose 22% last year! Although it’s important to always protect your identity, tax season makes people more vulnerable to this crime and you should be especially cautious.
H&R Block identity Theft
A recent article in the New York Times uncovers an H&R Block office in the Bronx that was infiltrated by identity thieves (apparently it was not the only office affected).
Last year, Kevin Johns, a construction worker in the Bronx, did his taxes at the H&R Block store on Riverdale Avenue that he had used for the past 20 years or so. The next day, though, he got a call from the tax preparer: his return was rejected because he had already filed. Or at least, someone had filed in his name. That someone helped himself or herself to a $8,499 refund.
If you receive my newsletter, you’ve already seen this article on identity theft during tax season, but I thought I would re-post it here.
Tax time is like Christmas for identity thieves. Our personal information sits out on desks (ours and our tax preparer’s), is mailed improperly, emailed incorrectly and stored unsafely. And to top it all off,