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IRS not doing enough to protect taxpayer information

FILE - This March 22, 2013 file photo shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (SBG) - Identity thieves are getting smarter, often able to steal your Social Security number to file bogus tax returns. And the Internal Revenue Service is not doing enough to stop them.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found “fraudsters have developed more complex and sophisticated methods,” including using stolen personal information from up to 724,000 accounts -- the IRS last year paying out $1.6 billion.

“The legitimate taxpayer who might not have filed their return yet might get caught up having to prove they are who they say they are, so they can get their taxes filed and if they have a refund due, get their refund,” said IRS national taxpayer advocate Nina Olson, adding the IRS is struggling to play catch-up.

“The thieves are very sophisticated and they’re usually one step ahead of any government agency or any law enforcement agency, because we’re tracking what’s already happened,” she said.

It’s one reason Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., have just introduced legislation to help improve technology, oversight and overall functionality of the IRS.

“There are a lot of malicious actors out there that are not getting the refunds, that belong to other people,” said Cardin.

IRS officials are now calling the need to protect your information “dire” with a few tips:

  • Make sure your home computer is protected
  • Ask your employers and your tax preparer if they’ve taken security precautions
  • Keep a close eye on your Social Security number; never give it out over the phone.
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