An audit performed by the Inspector General for the Treasury Department has found that the IRS does not consistently perform background checks on contractors with which it does business putting millions of Americans in danger of identity theft. According to the report, the IRS failed to perform proper background checks in more than half of the contracts reviewed by the Inspector General. Many of these contractors failed to perform any criminal or credit background checks on their employees despite the fact that these employees would be handling sensitive personal information. In one instance, the IRS provided a printing services contractor with a compact disk with names, addresses and Social Security numbers of 1.4 million taxpayers with not a single person working on this matter having been screened by way of a criminal background check or credit check. In other instances, former criminals with lengthy records were found to have access to IRS records containing personal information that could be used for identity theft purposes. This is not the first time that the IRS has been found negligent in this regard. A previous investigation in 2013 uncovered the same problems of a lack of sufficient background checks for people with access to sensitive IRS information. The IRS has said that it will now make changes in its policies to require such background checks in the future, but at the moment, that is just lip service.
This is just another example of how you are only as safe from identity theft as the places with the weakest security that hold your personal information. One takeaway from this is that as much as possible, you should limit the places that do hold your personal information. When a business asks for your Social Security number as an identifying number, which they still may do under the law, offer them something else such as your driver’s license number which is not likely to be of use to an identity thief.