, Salem, MA

February 14, 2013

Our view: Identity theft no laughing matter to the IRS

The Salem News

---- — The movie “Identity Thief” was a box office hit last weekend. It’s a comedy about a man whose identity is stolen, and the thief runs up big debts on his credit card.

It’s not a laughing matter, as the Internal Revenue Service’s acting commissioner reminds us. Steven Miller said the IRS recently conducted a national sweep that nabbed 389 identity theft suspects in 32 states. They opened more than 900 identity theft investigations in 2012.

“It’s one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS today,” Miller said. “In that fight, we are doing a much better job on all fronts, but we still have much to do.”

Indeed, they do. Most of us have stories or have heard stories from friends who have been the victim of identity thieves. Much of it is random, from thieves taking chances on numbers and passwords.

There are simple steps that consumers can take to keep from becoming a victim. Shred receipts and statements. Lock up cards, and don’t share passwords with anyone. Check your credit report once a year, and review your bank statements monthly.

In this tax season, the IRS said it is cracking down on storefront operations that may be helping identity thieves cash refund checks that don’t belong to them. That’s a largely unregulated business.