What the IRS Does After Discovering Identity Theft

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 information include:
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 phishing@irs.gov. Help from taxpayers will assist the IRS in discovering identity thieves and saving many other taxpayers from becoming identity theft victims.

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