IRS, FTC initiatives tackle identity theft

An IRS program launched to improve fraud prevention needs improvements, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said -- as the FTC rolls out an upgraded identity theft website.
An IRS program launched to improve fraud prevention needs improvements, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said -- as the FTC rolls out an upgraded identity theft website.

The federal government is attempting to pick up its game when it comes to cybersecurity.

As the IRS expands its newly launched Return Review Program (RRP), which is designed to improve on the agency's current fraud prevention capabilities, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said the agency needs to increase the program's ability to detect identity theft.

The TIGTA report called on the commissioner of the agency's wage and investment division to establish stronger processes when IRS checks are returned as undeliverable.

The IRS launched RRP as a pilot program during the 2014 tax year and then expanded the program following year. RRP was developed to replace its Electronic Fraud Detection System (EFDS), a legacy system in use since 1996, and another system, Dependent Database (DDb), that makes use of information from the Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, and the IRS.

The IRS previously tried to replace EFDS, hiring the IT contractor Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) in 2002 to replace the system. The project went over budget, and when CSC failed to deliver a usable product by January 2006, was IRS opted to use its old system instead. The IRS created identity theft rules for the DDb system during the 2012 tax return processing year.

The new RRP system is being rolled out in phases and will ultimately replace the legacy systems, although the IRS does not have an estimated date for full implementation.

The FTC is also working on identity theft solutions. The agency announced on Thursday an overhaul to IdentityTheft.gov, its identity theft website. The site now automates much of the paperwork required of victims in responding identity theft, including pre-filling forms and affidavits to be sent to credit bureaus, businesses, collection agencies, and law enforcement authorities.

The website guides identity theft victims through the process if they encounter problems resolving identity theft issues.

The FTC also launched a Spanish-language website, RobodeIdentidad.gov, to help Spanish-speaking individuals answer prompts in their language, but generate the required forms in English. The agency received 490,000 identity theft reports in 2015, 47 percent more than the previous year.

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