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IRS warns of identity theft in its "dirty dozen" tax scams

Tax information is valuable. Because your income tax filings contain a significant amount of private, confidential information, and because much of that information has an economic connotation, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has again warned all taxpayers to be alert for possible identity theft in connection with their tax returns.

For many taxpayers, the first inkling they have of suffering identity theft, is when they file their income tax return and their refund is rejected. They will often be shocked to learn that the reason for the rejection is that their refund has already been processed. 

This means someone has obtained their Social Security number and filed a return in their name. The IRS has worked diligently to stop this type of fraud and identity theft. They prevented 19 million "suspicious returns" in the last three years, but the attraction of stealing taxpayer refunds remains strong.

The IRS also has increased its prosecution of these crimes, with the IRS Criminal Investigation division prosecuted more than a 1,000 cases last fiscal year, which they note resulted in a 75 percent increase in sentencing from the previous year.

Nonetheless, for the taxpayer, this type of problem can be very frustrating, as you have to deal with the disaster of having personal information stolen, such as your Social Security number and worry about the potential for other breaches of your financial records, and you have to work to clear-up the controversy involving your tax refund to receive your money.

In some states, the IRS is offering "Identity Protection PINs" to help taxpayers securely obtain their tax refunds. If you have concerns regarding your tax return or believe your identity may have been stolen, you should contact the IRS immediately.

IRS.gov, "Identity Theft a Major Concern on the IRS Annual "Dirty Dozen" List of Tax Scams to Avoid," R-2015-07, January 26, 2015

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