Investigating identity theft is difficult
because the crime is most often committed remotely, using email or phone calls,
without any physical contact with the victim. The IRS’ Criminal Investigation
(CI) department conducts investigative work to catch identity thieves. In 2012,
the IRS investigated around 900 identity theft related crimes. Many of the
cases led to prison terms for the culprits. The number of identity theft
convictions has sharply risen this year. In most cases, the prison sentence is
from 4 months to 25 years.
There have been cases in which the CI
discovered identity thieves’ diaries containing the names, Social Security
Numbers and/or filing statuses of hundreds and thousands of taxpayers. The
sheer scope of this tax crime is unimaginable. It is a crime that can be
committed without having any face-to-face contact with the victim. The crime is
widespread and all the more dangerous because of this. Often identity theft victims
do not realize they are a victim until it is too late.
The methods identity thieves use to steal
- Sending fake emails
pretending to be the IRS, a bank or a financial institution
- Phone calls
- Text messages on the phone
- Messages on social
In rare cases, scammers may appear at your
door pretending to be from the IRS or a financial institution, and demand
either sensitive information or hard cash.
Identity theft is at the top of the IRS’ 2013
“Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. To counter identity theft, the IRS established
the Identity Theft Clearinghouse (ITC). It is a unit within the CI that
specializes in tracking and processing identity theft leads. Their mission is
to develop identity theft leads and inform the CI field offices about developments.
When investigating, the IRS often works in
collaboration with the Department of Justice, Tax Division and the United
States Attorney’s Offices. In a nationwide hunt for identity theft, the IRS
targeted 389 identity thieves in 32 states.
If you have experienced any phishing
attempts, you may report them to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help from
taxpayers will assist the IRS in discovering identity thieves and saving many
other taxpayers from becoming identity theft victims.
Labels: Identity Theft, IRS, Tax Filing, Tax News, Taxpayers