JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There's a new report out about identity theft that shows the Internal Revenue Service is doing a poor job of helping victims.
The federal report issued Wednesday claims the IRS has failed to give quick and effective help to victims of identity theft, even as the crimes become more common.
Because it's a new year and many people will be starting to file their taxes soon, tax filers are encouraged to be extra cautious.
Last year, nearly half a million people reported identity theft problems to the agency. The report focuses on the government's response to taxpayers who have their identities and tax refund stolen by thieves who take their Social Security number.
The report criticizes the IRS saying the problems may be because the IRS handles identity theft complaints in 21 different units, not a centralized approach.
The taxpayer protection unit, which handles calls from people whose tax returns were flagged for fraud, may be understaffed.
The report shows the IRS identity protection specialized unit got more than 449,000 cases last year, up almost 80 percent from the 253,000 received in 2011.
"The IRS is going to have to step up their security in some way to prevent it," Certified Public Accountant Mark Patrick said. "That would be doing things like comparing it to last year, having you put some information that you might be the only one that knows -- a pin number, for example -- which they're encouraging people have."
Thousands of Americans who filed their taxes last year were told it had already been filed and their refund had been claimed. Many waited up to six months for the issue to be resolved and the refund issue to the right taxpayer.
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