IRS: Top 10 things every taxpayer should know about identity theft

As part of a look at the impact of identity theft and the Internal Revenue Service, watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office issued the IRS' top 10 list of identity theft information everyone should be aware of. Some of the information is obvious, perhaps, but overall even the basics of security were followed in many cases the impact of identity theft could be reduced.

From the GAO: In 2010 alone, IRS identified more than 245,000 identity theft incidents that affected the tax system. The hundreds of thousands of taxpayers with tax problems caused by identity theft represent a small percentage of the expected 140 million individual returns filed, but for those affected, the problems can be quite serious.

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"The IRS provides taxpayers with targeted information to increase their awareness of identity theft, tips and suggestions for safeguarding taxpayers' personal information, and information to help them better understand tax administration issues related to identity theft," the GAO states.

The list:

1. The IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by email.

2. If you receive a scam email claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

3. Identity thieves get your personal information by many different means, including:

● stealing your wallet or purse;

● posing as someone who needs information about you through a phone call or email;

● looking through your trash for personal information;

● accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site.

4. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but does not begin with "www.irs.gov," forward that link to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

5. To learn how to identify a secure website, visit the Federal Trade Commission at www.onguardonline.gov/tools/recognize-secure-site-using-ssl.aspx.

6. If your Social Security number is stolen, another individual may use it to get a job. That person's employer may then report income earned to the IRS using your Social Security number, thus making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return.

7. Your identity may have been stolen if a letter from the IRS indicates more than one tax return was filed for you or the letter states you received wages from an employer you don't know. If you receive such a letter from the IRS, leading you to believe your identity has been stolen, respond immediately to the name, address or phone number on the IRS notice.

8. If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, you need to provide the IRS with proof of your identity. You should submit a copy of your valid government-issued identification -- such as a Social Security card, driver's license or passport -- along with a copy of a police report and/or a completed Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. As an option, you can also contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 800-908-4490. You should also follow FTC guidance for reporting identity theft at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

9. Show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a job or to your financial institution for tax reporting purposes. Do not routinely carry your card or other documents that display your Social Security number.

10. For more information about identity theft -- including information about how to report identity theft, phishing and related fraudulent activity -- visit the IRS Identity Theft and Your Tax Records Page, which you can find by searching "Identity Theft" on the IRS.gov home page.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8

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