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Tax return season brings with it tax identity theft season

As identity thieves continue to target tax returns, the IRS has become more aggressive in prosecuting those engaging in identity theft and warning taxpayers to be alert to the potential threat. Identity thieves have targeted tax refunds for a couple of reasons; it can be done online, because they are using your identity, they can remain anonymous and there is a lot of money at stake. In 2009, $437 billion was refunded to taxpayers.

Another advantage for the thieves is that you only learn of the theft after you have filed a return and had it rejected by the IRS, because they have already paid out your refund. But not to you.

Because of this, the IRS has dramatically increased its enforcement actions. In 2011, there were 276 identity theft investigations; in the first two months of 2013, the agency has 560 pending investigations.

To help prevent identity theft, the IRS recommends you use a strong password for filing your return (never use your name, social security number, birthday or something like the word "password.") They also the IRS never uses email to request personal information. If you receive such an email, never click on any links or reply to the email.

If you receive a letter from the IRS informing you a return has been filed in your name, you should immediately contact the IRS. In addition to filing an identity theft affidavit, (of course, there is IRS form) you may want to consult with a tax attorney if you have additional questions concerning the identity theft.

Source: IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-05, "What Taxpayers Should Know about Identity Theft and Taxes," February 20, 2013

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