Don’t mess with the IRS – especially if you’re an identity thief.
The Internal Revenue Service is cracking down on identity theft nationwide and has brought action against 389 identity thieves in 32 states and Puerto Rico in a joint effort with the Justice Department.
The national sweep brought the total number of investigations to more than 1,460 investigations during the last 18 months.
The type of theft varies, and most involve the filing of fraudulent tax returns. One recent Alabama case involved co-conspirators who fraudulently claimed $1.7 million in tax refunds using stolen identities of over 1,000 people to file false income tax returns. The refunds were directed to prepaid debit cards.
In addition to the criminal actions, special compliance visits are underway with nearly 200 money service businesses to be sure they are not assisting with identity theft or refund fraud when they cash checks.
The IRS has identified 17 high-risk areas where they are conducting compliance visits in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, El Paso, Tucson, Birmingham, Detroit, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. A map of locations and additional details are available at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Combats-Identity-Theft-and-Refund-Fraud-on-Many-Fronts.
More and more identity thieves are being sentenced, and the amount of jail time they’re serving is increasing. In 2012, 223 offenders were sentenced, with the average sentence in 2012 of four years. Sentences have ranged from four months to 25 years.
More than 3,000 IRS employees have been assigned to work on identity theft cases, and 35,000 employees who work directly with taxpayers have been trained to recognize identity theft indicators.
Taxpayers who believe they have been victimized by identity theft should contact the specialized identity theft unit of the IRS at (800) 908-4490.