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How Does the IRS Keep My Personal Information Safe?

written by: •edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/22/2011

Dealing with personal information of taxpayers means that the IRS is under a certain obligation to protect taxpayers from identity thieves. There are a number of tools provided by the IRS to help. Tax refund fraud is an ongoing concern and one issue the IRS works hard to address.

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    Do Not Be a Victim

    Protection from identity theft You open your email and you find an important message from the Internal Revenue Service. It appears when you read the email that you failed to do something to your income tax filing and you have an IRS email telling you how to correct it. Not so fast! The Internal Revenue Service will never email you with a problem about your tax filing!

    Unfortunately, the incidents of identity theft seem to be on the rise. During June of 2005, MSNBC published a story stating identity theft may impact as many as one in five people. Follow-ups to this type of fraud are numerous and one of the most current was reported by ABC News in April of 2011 where they stated "...tax refunds are the Number one target of identity thieves." There are steps that can be taken to avoid being a victim of identity theft including making sure that you do not respond to unsolicited emails with personal data. The Internal Revenue Service will not ask a taxpayer to enter personal information on their website at any time except when actually filing their taxes. This is done by means of a secure service.

    If you receive an email from the IRS, do not respond. Additionally, taxpayers who receive telephone calls, or letters should always verify that the information is being requested by the Internal Revenue Service.

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    Identity Protections Offered by the IRS

    email from irs The Internal Revenue Service takes privacy very seriously. Since they are required to deal with personal information including social security numbers, street addresses and other information that can create serious financial problems in the event the information is mis-handled, there are safeguards in place.

    Report all false emails - Taxpayers who receive unsolicited emails from the Internal Revenue Service are generally victims of phishing scams. All false emails should be reported.

    Verify all telephone calls - If a taxpayer receives a telephone call from anyone identifying themselves as an agent of the IRS, they should request a telephone number to return their call. All agents who work for the Internal Revenue Service will provide this information.

    Tax preparation - The IRS has put policies in place that govern filing of online returns by tax preparation services. These include a specific personal identification number being issued for all service providers who are authorized to file taxes using the IRS online filing system.

    Remember that all suspicious activity that has to do with your tax return or private tax information should be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. The services provided by the IRS for identity theft and tax refunds can help ensure that taxpayers do not fall victim to someone seeking to gain access to private and personal information.

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    When You Suspect You Are a Victim

    Taxpayers who think that they have been victimized should report this information to the proper authorities. In addition to notifying the IRS if information has been transferred due to fraudulent websites posing as IRS clones, phishing emails claiming to be from the IRS or suspicious telephone calls, taxpayers should also notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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    Resources

    Sources

    1. Internal Revenue Service:Protect your personal information! The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=179820,00.html
    2. Identity Theft and Your Tax Records http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html
    3. Beware of IRS’ 2010 “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=220238,00.html
    4. MSNBC Sullivan, Bob - Just how common is ID theft? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8409283/ns/technology_and_science-security/t/just-how-common-id-theft/
    5. ABC News Multiple contributors - Identity Thieves Target Tax Refunds http://abcnews.go.com/US/identity-thieves-target-irs-tax-refunds/story?id=13291070

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