MAY 21, 2009
The U.S. government agency that collects taxes regularly puts Americans at risk of identity theft by not properly disposing of papers with personally identifiable information, instead throwing it trash bins outside its various locations.
Sensitive documents containing the data of U.S. taxpayers were found in waste containers and dumpsters outside Internal Revenue Service offices throughout the nation, according to a Treasury Inspector General report, which concludes that information provided by more than 130 million taxpayers is not adequately protected from identity theft.
That’s because the agency hires contractors to dispose of the documents and doesn’t bother following through with how it actually happens. For the report investigators visited eight IRS offices in Arizona, Maryland, New York and Utah and interviewed managers across the country from September 2007 to May 2008.
At every location investigators found documents containing personally identifiable information in regular waste containers and/or dumpsters. Regional IRS officials rarely bother checking if files are properly destroyed nor do they consistently verify that contract employees with access to sensitive documents pass background checks.
Just last month the IRS came under fire when a separate Treasury Inspector General report revealed that the agency has given illegal immigrants—without valid Social Security numbers—billions of dollars in tax refunds they obviously don’t qualify for. That investigation also exposed how the IRS allows companies that employ foreigners to file taxes using Tax Identification Numbers, rather than the required Social Security, even though the law forbids it.
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