Identity thieves seek taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) for many purposes. During 2014, the Department of Justice reported that from 2008 through May 2012, over 550,000 taxpayers had their identities stolen by thieves claiming false tax refunds. In 2009, the IRS has tested the use of truncated social security numbers on certain payee statements. The IRS issued final regulations in July 2014, to make this program permanent. On a recent 60 Minutes airing, it has been predicted that the IRS will issue over $21 billion in fraudulent tax refunds from the filing of electronic income tax returns for the 2015 tax year.
Since December 2006, merchants have been required to truncate credit and debit card numbers and to omit the expiration date on electronically printed receipts given to customers at the point of sale transaction. (Truncation means that the last 5 digits of the card number may be printed.) The IRS's new rule allows only the last four digits of your social security number to be used going forward on such documents such as Forms 1098 (mortgage interest) series and Forms 1099 (i.e. interest and dividend income) series. These new rules make it optional, not mandatory, to truncate taxpayer identification numbers (TTINs) for the payee copy, however, the full number must be used on documents filed with the IRS. Forms W-2 cannot use truncated TINs at all. The issuer's TIN may not be truncated on any form. These regulations apply on forms submitted after July 15, 2014.
The above optional law is one small step to prevent identity theft, however, the theft of social security numbers, credit and debit card numbers and passwords is a monthly occurrence. It can never be emphasized enough to keep your social security numbers, birth dates and other personal information protected. Make sure you are using complex passwords to protect access to your data online and change them frequently.