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Increase in tax-related identity theft
Consumer affairs

Increase in tax-related identity theft

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In my last column, I wrote about the Federal Trade Commission’s identification of top consumer complaints for 2014, as published in the "Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2014."

As I noted in that column, for the 15th year in a row identity theft topped the national ranking. This column provides additional information on the "the most common form of identity theft reported" in 2014 — tax-related identity theft.

According to the FTC, an "explosion" occurred in tax-related identity theft, with complaints "about criminals impersonating IRS officials" up "nearly 24 times more than 2013."

The 2013 report data showed approximately 2,500 IRS-related imposter scam complaints reported. In 2014, the "number increased to 54,690." Overall, the agency received over 100,000 complaints about tax-related identity theft of various types in 2014, roughly one-third of the 332,646 complaints received regarding identity theft overall.

A common IRS impersonation scam involves phoning a consumer and claiming to be an IRS agent. The caller may "threaten arrest or legal action" and demand payment through "wiring money or loading money on a pre-paid debit card."

The FTC notes that IRS agents "never call a consumer about unpaid taxes or penalties — the agency typically contacts consumers via letter."

For more information on tax-related identity theft, look up "Tax ID Theft Tops FTC Complaints in 2014" at www.ftc.gov or go to www.ftc.gov/taxidtheft.

Opinions are solely the writer's. Joseph Pellicciotti is a lawyer, professor and vice chancellor at Indiana University Northwest.

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