The Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department recently announced the results of a massive national sweep cracking down on suspected identity theft perpetrators as part of a stepped-up effort against refund fraud and identity theft.
Working with the Justice Department’s Tax Division and local U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the nationwide effort targeted 105 people in 23 states. The coast-to-coast effort included indictments, arrests and the execution of search warrants involving the potential theft of thousands of identities and taxpayer refunds. In all, 939 criminal charges are included in the 69 indictments and informations related to identity theft.
“This unprecedented effort against identity theft sends a strong, unmistakable message to anyone considering participating in a refund fraud scheme this tax season,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We are aggressively pursuing cases across the nation with the Justice Department, and people will be going to jail. This is part of a much wider effort underway at the IRS to help protect taxpayers.”
“The Justice Department is working closely with the IRS to investigate, prosecute, and punish tax refund crimes committed through the theft of identities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John A. DiCicco of the Tax Division. “Now, more than ever, we must remain vigilant against the unauthorized use of identification information to defraud the U.S. government.”
The IRS also is taking a number of additional steps this tax season to prevent identity theft and detect refund fraud before it occurs. These efforts include designing new identity theft screening filters that will improve the IRS’s ability to spot false returns before they are processed and before a refund is issued, as well as expanded efforts to place identity theft indicators on taxpayer accounts to track and manage identity theft incidents.
To help taxpayers, the IRS created a new special section on IRS.gov dedicated to identity theft matters, including YouTube videos, tips for taxpayers and a special guide to assistance. The information includes how to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit and tips to protect against “phishing” schemes that can lead to identity theft.
When it comes to federal taxes, taxpayers may not be aware they have become victims of identity theft until they receive a letter from the IRS stating more than one tax return was filed with their information or that IRS records show wages from an employer the taxpayer has not worked for in the past.
If a taxpayer receives a notice from the IRS indicating identity theft, they should follow the instructions in that notice. A taxpayer who believes they are at risk of identity theft should contact the IRS immediately so the agency can take action to secure their tax account. The taxpayer should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
Taxpayers looking for additional information can consult the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft or the IRS Identity Theft Protection page on the IRS website.