Our March newsletter highlights the threat of tax-related identity theft, and it’s a timely examination since the federal government says it’s now the .

Tax-related identity theft usually takes one of three forms:

• Armed with a name and SSN, a thief submits stolen information with bogus W-2s to collect a tax refund in the victim’s name. The IRS spotted and stopped 23,000 of these incidents in 2009, the last year for which numbers are available.

• An identity thief uses stolen information to get a job, creating a headache—and financial liability—for the victim when the government wants taxes on income the victim never earned. There were 24,000 such cases reported in 2009.

• Through fake IRS and accounting websites, fraudsters con unsuspecting taxpayers—who think they’re filing returns—into submitting personal information. More than 3,000 of these sites were shut down in 2009 alone.

Think you can’t be a victim? Think again. In 2009, tax-related fraud affected more than 43,000 people, and the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, which tracks and responds to identity theft issues, took 87,000 calls.

The IRS—which is, after all, pretty good at math—recognizes the scope of the problem and has taken steps to remedy it, with some positive results. But there are ways to guard your information and reduce your risk of becoming a victim of tax-related identity theft.

The Identity Theft 911 March newsletter includes firsthand accounts from victims, as well as tips to keep you safe when filing online. Read about this and more at the Identity Theft 911 .

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