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A Call for Action On Tax Scams

Such employment-related problems are on the rise. From 2002 to 2007, this type of identity theft complaint more than doubled, from 15,089 to 35,343, according to the TIGTA report.

In testimony submitted separately to the committee, George said "phishing" is a serious problem for the IRS. In those schemes, an unsolicited e-mail directs people to a bogus Web site that requests personal information, such as credit card and bank account numbers.

TIGTA has found "get your refund" phishing sites and anticipates that this year's economic stimulus payments will lead to "get your rebate" sites.

As of March 31, TIGTA had identified seven phishing sites set up to con taxpayers into believing they are filing their income taxes electronically with the IRS. Last year, TIGTA found 39 IRS-related phishing sites.

At last week's hearing, Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) urged IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman to consider creating an identity theft crisis center to help taxpayers. Shulman, who took office March 24, said the agency is working to improve assistance to victims of identity theft.

The IRS plans to have employees in place by this fall to assist taxpayers when they call to report identity theft, Shulman said. And, he said, the IRS has established an office to focus on an agency approach to identity theft and data security issues.

The IRS also is creating a tag for taxpayer accounts to show they have been victimized. Once the tag is attached, taxpayers should have to provide documentation only one time to prove their personal information has been stolen.

"We understand the personal devastation that an individual feels when their identity has been stolen," Shulman said. "We also understand that when a victim of identity theft seeks assistance from a government agency, they have a right that that agency will help them, not add to their problems."

Stephen Barr's e-mail address is

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