As tax season kicks into high gear across the country, the IRS is trying to tackle a rapidly growing problem — tax-related identity theft. Even though the IRS detected about 940,000 fraudulent returns for 2011 claiming $6.5 billion in refunds, there were potentially another 1.5 million undetected cases of tax identity theft. Treasury Department investigators also estimated that another $21 billion could be refunded to identity thieves over the next five years.
We wanted to find out how much the average American citizen knows about tax identity theft, and what role they believe the IRS should play in preventing tax identity theft. Today, we announced the results of the survey. Here are some of our key findings:
Consumers believe that the IRS is fully responsible for ensuring that no one can file a return in their name and claim their tax refund:
56% of consumers totally agree or mostly agree that the IRS is 100% responsible for ensuring that no one can file a return in their name and claim their tax refund
Consumers are unaware or unsure about what tax identity theft is:
51% of consumers have never heard about tax identity theft
45% of consumers have a poor understanding of tax identity theft
Many consumers believe that the IRS is trustworthy when it comes to protecting their Social Security number and other private information:
50% of consumers believe that the IRS is very or extremely trustworthy
7% of consumers believe that the IRS is not trustworthy at all
The survey indicates that the IRS has to increase awareness of this growing threat as the majority of consumers have never even heard about tax identity theft. Furthermore, while many consumers believe the IRS is trustworthy, the growing number of tax identity theft cases creates a serious and growing gap between perception and reality.
The IRS must find a way to protect consumers from falling victim to tax identity theft and work to develop a quicker resolution for victims. If you want to learn more about tax identity theft, check out our latest blog post on how to ‘Help Protect Your Tax Refund From Identity Thieves’.
For the ultimate protection, sign up for a comprehensive identity protection service like IDEssentials which helps safeguard your personal and financial information, including your SSN, bank accounts, credit cards, online profiles, credit reports and scores, and much more.