This is Jean Wetzler.
I'm talking with Phyllis Grimes about identity theft.
Phyllis, we all hear the horror stories.
What is the IRS doing to fight against identity theft and protect taxpayers?
There's nothing - NOTHING -- we take more seriously than protecting taxpayer information.
We are absolutely vigilant about it.
We know the distress that can result from the mere thought of identity theft and the possibility that personal information could be compromised through the tax system.
If we discover even the most remote possibility that there was a breach, we will notify the taxpayer by mail and advise them on the steps they should take.
We have also established a department that specializes in identity theft issues.
Generally, that department is not the first point of contact, but it's available for those who have previously been in contact with the IRS about an identity theft issue and have not achieved a resolution.
What are some indicators that might alert a taxpayer to the possibility that someone has stolen their identity?
And what should they do about it?
For most individuals, the IRS uses the Social Security Number as a tax identifying number.
SSNs are also connected with non-tax activities -- opening a credit card account, for instance - that are attractive to identity thieves.
Here are some tax-related clues that might cause you to suspect that someone used your SSN fraudulently.
You receive a letter or notice from the IRS that is unrelated to any of your tax account activity;
You receive a letter from the IRS that indicates more than one tax return was filed for you; or
The IRS sends you a letter that says you received wages from an employer you don't know.
If any of these happens, respond immediately to the name and address or phone number printed on the IRS notice.
Also, know that the IRS never uses e-mail to initiate communication with taxpayers about their tax accounts.
What if someone has NOT been contacted by the IRS, but they believe they've been a victim of identity theft, and they want to avoid any possible effects on their tax account?
There are some actions someone in these circumstances can take if they believe they're at risk - perhaps due to a lost or stolen wallet, or questionable activity on a credit report.
The first step is to file reports with the proper authorities - the police, one of the credit bureaus, any companies where you've spotted suspicious account activity, etc.
Then, if you need to provide proof of your identity to the IRS, we have some information on our Web site to guide you through that process.
You can also contact our Identity Protection Specialized Unit for guidance at 1-800-908-4490.
Where is the information on the IRS Web site?
Go to IRS.gov and type "Identity Theft" in the search box.
You'll find information about ID theft and your tax account, plus links to helpful resources on other sites, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration.
Thank you, Phyllis.
I've been talking with Phyllis Grimes of the IRS.
This is Jean Wetzler.
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