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IRS agrees to give identity theft victims access to fake returns

Whenever financial information is sent over the Internet, you can rely on hackers and identity thieves to try to take advantage of the situation. And, as we've discussed before on this blog, that means both federal and state tax returns have been tempting targets for fraud and identity theft.

Being the victim of identity theft is often more of a hassle than a financial hit, but only at the end of a very long process. You're likely to get back at least some of the money you lost, and you shouldn't be held responsible for any fraudulent charges on your credit cards. Plus, you might not get the money back until after you've gone through a very long process of identifying the problem, getting the bank or website to take responsibility, submitting claims for reimbursement and clearing up your credit report.

Unfortunately, when it came to instances of identity theft involving federal tax returns, the IRS's privacy policies were extremely unhelpful. If someone filed a false return in your name, for example, the policy was that you could not get a copy of that false return.

In stepped U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte. In May, the senator wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen urging him to reverse that policy -- and he did.

"Victims of identity theft face significant emotional and financial hardships," Ayotte said in a statement recently, "and they shouldn't be left in the dark about the extent of the theft."

Koskinen agreed with that sentiment. "As a result of your letter," he wrote back to Ayotte, "we have decided to change our policy regarding disclosure of fraudulent identity theft returns to victims whose name and SSN the fraudulent return was filed under...We will put together a procedure that will enable victims to receive, upon request, redacted copies of fraudulent returns filed in their name and SSN."

Who said you can't get anything done in Washington?

If you've been the victim of identity theft or any tax crime and need assistance, the IRS or a tax lawyer can help you access the appropriate files.

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