The IRS announced the results today of a national sweep targeting identity-theft suspects in 32 states and Puerto Rico, including in Yonkers. The effort against 389 suspects led to 734 enforcement actions in January, including 109 arrests; 189 indictments, informations and complaints; and 47 search warrants. The effort is part of the IRS’ ongoing crackdown on identity thieves, which led to 2,400 enforcement actions against 1,310 suspects in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The IRS worked with the U.S. Department of Justice and local U.S. attorneys offices. The national effort is part of a larger identity theft strategy focused on preventing, detecting and resolving cases as soon as possible. For the 2013 tax season, the IRS has increased the number and quality of identity theft screening filters, which identify fraudulent tax returns before refunds are issued. The filters help prevent $20 billion in fraudulent refunds, compared with $14 billion in 2011.
“As tax season begins this year, we want to be clear that there is a heavy price to pay for perpetrators of refund fraud and identity theft,” IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said in a statement. “We have aggressively stepped up our efforts to pursue and prevent refund fraud and identity theft, and we will continue to intensely focus on this area. This is part of a much wider effort underway for the 2013 tax season to stop fraud.”
IRS auditors and criminal investigators visited 197 money service businesses beginning Jan. 28 to make sure they’re not assisting identity theft or refund fraud when they cash checks. The visits were in 18 high-risk areas in metropolitan regions, including greater New York City.
The IRS has an Identity Theft Schemes page on its website, and pages with information on examples of identity-theft schemes and on identity protection. More information on enforcement actions is available on a Department of Justice Tax Division page.
By late 2012, the IRS had assigned more than 3,000 employees to work on identity-theft issues, more than double than in 2011. Identity thieves may file fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, which has been stolen. Jail time has been increasing for identity thieves, according to the IRS. The average sentence in the 2011-12 fiscal year was 48 months, four months higher than the previous year. So far this fiscal year, sentences have ranged from four months to 300 months.
Taxpayers who believe they are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. The taxpayer will be asked to complete an affidavit.