IRS Battling Rising Identity Theft

Morning Business Memo…

With the start of the tax filing season just around the corner, the IRS is on alert for rising cases of identity theft and tax fraud. Many taxpayers can become victims if they are not careful about protecting their personal information. In some cases, thieves grab W-2 forms and other financial documents from mailboxes.

"The problem is there's way too much information about us floating around out there," says Adam Levin, CEO of the security firm Identity Theft 9-1-1. He says thieves have posed as tax accountants: "They will take the take the name as a store front of a well-known tax preparation company set up shop for a few days." People go in to get their taxes done and then "all of a sudden the store disappears," along with taxpayers' personal information.

The IRS is well aware of the problem. "If you think you have been the victim of identity theft and your refund has been affected, contact the IRS," says spokesman Eric Smith. "We have a process for handling that." Levin says the number of cases of taxpayer identity theft report to his firm has soared 800 percent since 2008.

There are several ways taxpayers can become victims, he says. "One is that they attempt to file a return and it's blocked, or they are waiting for a refund and they find out it's been misdirected because somebody filed before they did using their Social Security number."

Consumers have also received notices from the IRS saying their income was unreported. That could happen if a thief is using their personal information in connection with employment.

One day after Apple's quarterly report disappointed investors, its big smart phone rival Samsung says its profit soared 76 percent. The Galaxy outsold the iPhone worldwide for the fourth straight quarter. But Samsung says today it expects earnings to decline during the current quarter because of seasonally low demand for consumer electronics. The company is also leaving its 2013 capital expenditure at the same level as last year at $21.5 billion, underlining uncertainty about the global economy and declining demand for personal computers. Samsung shares fell in overseas markets.

Microsoft says its quarterly earnings fell 4 percent despite a lift from its latest version of Windows. The results are the first to include Windows 8, the new operating system. Although Windows 8 sales haven't been as strong as investors hoped, revenue in Microsoft's Windows division rose 24 percent from the previous year.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio