Identity theft on Guam "a growing epidemic" - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Identity theft on Guam "a growing epidemic"

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Have you fallen victim to identity theft? According to the Department of Rev & Tax it appears to be a growing epidemic on Guam as over 300 cases have been reported these past few months - with dozens just today.

Deputy Director Marie Benito says at this rate, it's becoming a serious concern for the department.

"We're aware of the identity theft ongoing right now and the growing epidemic of this ID theft," she said.

She says the reports of identity theft started late last year and didn't raise any major concern considering they were sporadic, but in the past 10 months it's grown even worse.

"And what happens is the tax payer would come here and notify us that they got a notice and their checks were levied or their accounts were levied and that payment went directly to IRS and they don't owe IRS, they don't file with the IRS," she said.

A levy is a legal seizure of your property to satisfy a tax debt. KUAM has learned that some have reported having their accounts zeroed out to some getting notices that they owe money from tens to even one hundred thousand dollars to the IRS in areas throughout the US these Guam taxpayers have never even been before.  Benito says over 300 cases have been reported this year and according to the income tax assistance and processing branch up to 30 just today. So who exactly is being targeted?

"Everyone on Guam," she said. "There's no special category or military or locals, it's everyone the island and in fact some (Rev and Tax) staff have been on that list."

Benito says the department is working with the taxpayer advocate in Hawaii along with the IRS.

"So what I did was reached out to the IRS criminal investigation and they've assured me that this is their top priority right now and they have fulltime special agents working in these cases," she said.

People who have received a notice of levy or believe they have fallen victim to this "epidemic" of identity theft are advised to report it immediately to the income tax assistance and processing branch. From there, Rev & Tax will help you obtain a certification of filing and package all your documents and information- free of charge.

"It's a service we want to give to our people, our taxpayers because they're already going through the stress, can you imagine having your check levied and not knowing about it before hand," she said.

According to IRS.gov, if they do levy your bank account, your bank must hold funds you have on deposit, up to the amount you owe, for 21 days. This holding period allows time to resolve any issues about account ownership. If you paid bank charges because of a mistake the IRS made when your account was levied, you may be entitled to a reimbursement however you have 30 days to appeal the determination. You can call DRT at 635-1840 or 1841 for more information.

We should add Attorney General Leondardo Rapadas last month established the Identity Theft Task Force of Guam. 
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