identity-theft

Identity Theft Crackdown Sweeps Across the Nation

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department today 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 took place over the last week and 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 information related to identity theft.

 

Identity Theft Crackdown Sweeps Across the Nation

In addition, IRS auditors and investigators conducted extensive compliance visits to money service businesses in nine locations across the country in the past week. The approximately 150 visits occurred to help ensure these check-cashing facilities aren’t facilitating refund fraud and 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 national effort is part of a comprehensive identity theft strategy the IRS has embarked on that is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. In addition to the law-enforcement crackdown, the IRS has stepped up its internal reviews to spot false tax returns before tax refunds are issued as well as working to help victims of the identity theft refund schemes.

The law-enforcement sweep started last week across the country, reflecting investigative efforts stretching back months and even years.

The nationwide effort by the Justice Department and the IRS led to actions taking place in 23 locations across the country with 105 individuals. The actions included 80 complaints/indictments and information, 58 arrests, 19 search warrants, 10 guilty pleas and four sentencings. A map of the locations and additional details on the actions are available on IRS.gov, the IRS Civil and Criminal Actions page and the Department of Justice Tax Division page.

Beyond the criminal actions, the IRS enforcement personnel conducted a special sweep last week and on Monday to visit 150 money services businesses to help make sure these businesses are not knowingly or unknowingly facilitating identity theft or refund fraud. The visits occurred in nine high-risk places identified by the IRS covering areas in and surrounding Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Tampa and Washington, D.C.

In addition, the IRS has more than 250 check-cashing operations under audit across the country and will be looking for indicators of identity theft as part of the exam effort.

The information from these audits and compliance visits will be used to assist continuing IRS investigations into refund fraud and identity theft.

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 includes 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 earlier this month 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.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses another’s personal information without their permission to commit fraud or other crimes using the victim’s name, Social Security number or other identifying information. 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 due to lost or stolen personal information 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. The taxpayer will be asked to complete the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039, and follow the instructions on the back of the form based on their situation.

Taxpayers looking for additional information can consult the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft or the IRS Identity Theft Protection page on the IRS website.

identity theft

Top 10 Things Every Taxpayer Should Know about Identity Theft

Taxpayers need to be careful to protect their personal information.

Identity thieves use many methods to steal personal information and then they use the information to file a tax return and get a refund.

Here are 10 things the IRS wants you to know about identity theft so you can avoid becoming the victim of an identity thief.

1. The IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by e-mail.

2. If you receive a scam e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

3. Identity thieves get your personal information by many different means, including:

  • Stealing your wallet or purse
  • Posing as someone who needs information about you through a phone call or e-mail
  • Looking through your trash for personal information
  • Accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site.

4. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but does not begin with ‘www.irs.gov’, forward that link to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

5. To learn how to identify a secure website, visit the Federal Trade Commission at www.onguardonline.gov/tools/recognize-secure-site-using-ssl.aspx

6. If your Social Security number is stolen, another individual may use it to get a job. That person’s employer may report income earned by them to the IRS using your Social Security number, thus making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return.

7. Your identity may have been stolen if a letter from the IRS indicates more than one tax return was filed for you or the letter states you received wages from an employer you don’t know. If you receive such a letter from the IRS, leading you to believe your identity has been stolen, respond immediately to the name, address or phone number on the IRS notice.

8. If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost wallet, questionable credit card activity, or credit report, you need to provide the IRS with proof of your identity. You should submit a copy of your valid government-issued identification – such as a Social Security card, driver’s license, or passport – along with a copy of a police report and/or a completed Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. As an option, you can also contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 800-908-4490. You should also follow FTC guidance for reporting identity theft at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

9. Show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a job or to your financial institution for tax reporting purposes. Do not routinely carry your card or other documents that display your Social Security number.

10. For more information about identity theft – including information about how to report identity theft, phishing and related fraudulent activity – visit the IRS Identity Theft and Your Tax Records Page, which you can find by searching “Identity Theft” on the IRS.gov home page.

 

Take control of your identity and prevent tax scams

The fact is, your personal information is vulnerable to falling into the wrong hands. If you shop online, have a credit card account, a bank account, a job-your personal information is out there. If your personal information is used fraudulently, you may not find out about it for months or even longer.

identity-theft

Ten Things You Should Know About Identity Theft

Criminals use many methods to steal personal information from taxpayers. They can use your information to steal your identity and file a tax return in order to receive a refund.

 

Ten Things You Should Know About Identity Theft

Here are 10 things the IRS wants you to know about identity theft so you can avoid becoming the victim of a scam artist.

  1. Identity thieves get your personal information by many different means, including stealing a wallet or purse or accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site. They even look for personal information in your trash. They also pose as someone who needs information through a phone call or e-mail.
  2. The IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by e-mail.
  3. If you receive an e-mail scam, forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
  4. If you receive a letter from the IRS leading you to believe your identity has been stolen, respond immediately to the name, address or phone number on the IRS notice.
  5. Your identity may be stolen if a letter from the IRS indicates more than one tax return was filed for you or the letter states you received wages from an employer you don’t know.
  6. If your Social Security number is stolen, it may be used by another individual to get a job. That person’s employer would report income earned to the IRS using your Social Security number, making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return.
  7. If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost wallet, questionable credit card activity, or credit report, you need to provide the IRS with proof of your identity. You should submit a copy of your valid government-issued identification – such as a Social Security card, driver’s license, or passport – along with a copy of a police report and/or a completed Form 14039, IRS Identity Theft Affidavit.
  8. Show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a job or to your financial institution for tax reporting purposes. Do not routinely carry your card or other documents that display your SSN.
  9. If you have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution, please contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 1-800-908-4490.
  10. For more information about identity theft – including information about how to report identity theft, phishing and related fraudulent activity – visit the IRS Identity Theft Resource Page, which you can find by typing “Identity Theft” in the search box on the IRS.gov home page.

If you become the victim of identity theft outside of the tax system or believe you may be at risk due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, etc., you are encouraged to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 1-800-908-4490.

You will need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. Please be sure to write legibly and follow the instructions on the back of the form.

 

Here are other places that can assist identity theft victims.

IRS Alerts Public to New Identity Theft Scams

The Internal Revenue Service reminds consumers to avoid identity theft scams that use the IRS name, logo or Web site in an attempt to convince taxpayers that the scam is a genuine communication from the IRS. Scammers may use other federal agency names, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

 

IRS Alerts Public to New Identity Theft Scams

e-file taxes from home

In an identity theft scam, a fraudster, often posing as a trusted government, financial or business institution or official, tries to trick a victim into revealing personal and financial information, such as credit card numbers and passwords, bank account numbers and passwords, Social Security numbers and more. Generally, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to steal his or her financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name and even file fraudulent tax returns.

The scams may take place through e-mail, fax or phone. When they take place via e-mail, they are called “phishing” scams.

The IRS does not discuss tax account matters with taxpayers by e-mail.

The IRS urges consumers to avoid falling for the following recent schemes:

 

Making Work Pay Refund

This phishing e-mail, which claims to come from the IRS, references the president and the Making Work Pay provision of the 2009 economic recovery law. It says that there is a refundable credit available to workers, consumers and retirees that can be paid into the recipient’s bank account if the recipient registers their account information with the IRS. The e-mail contains links to register the account and to claim the tax refund.

In reality, most taxpayers receive their Making Work Pay tax credit, which was designed for wage earners, in their paychecks as a result of decreased tax withholding, not as a lump sum distribution from a federal fund. Additionally, consumers and retirees who are not wage earners are not eligible for this tax credit.

 

Inherited Funds / Lottery Winnings / Cash Consignment

In this phishing scheme, recipients receive an e-mail claiming to come from the U.S. Department of the Treasury notifying them that they will receive millions of dollars in recovered funds or lottery winnings or cash consignment if they provide certain personal information, including phone numbers, via return e-mail. The e-mail may be just the first step in a multi-step scheme, in which the victim is later contacted by telephone or further e-mail and instructed to deposit taxes on the funds or winnings before they can receive any of it. Alternatively, they may be sent a phony check of the funds or winnings and told to deposit it but pay 10 percent in taxes or fees. Thinking that the check must have cleared the bank and is genuine, some people comply. However, the scammers, not the Treasury Department, will get the taxes or fees.

 

Form W-8BEN Scam

In this scam, fraudsters modify a genuine IRS form, the W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, to request detailed personal and financial information. This could include nationality, passport number, bank account and PIN numbers, spouse’s name and mother’s maiden name, or other personal or financial information or security measures for financial accounts. The scammers may use the genuine form number and name or may make up a new form number, such as W-4100B2.

They either e-mail or fax the form or letter. If only a letter, the letter itself contains the request for the personal and financial information. The letter, which claims to come from the IRS, states that the recipient will face additional taxes unless he or she quickly faxes the required information to the number provided by the scammer.

In reality, taxpayers file the genuine Form W-8BEN with their financial institutions, not with the IRS. Additionally, the genuine W-8BEN does not request the taxpayer’s passport number, bank account number, security or similar information.

 

IRS Refund Scams

The bogus e-mail, which claims to come from the IRS, tells the recipient that he or she is eligible to receive a tax refund for a given amount. It instructs the recipient to click on a link contained in the e-mail to access and complete a form for the tax refund. The form requires the entry of personal and financial information. The refund scam is the most common one seen by the IRS. Several recent variations on this scam have claimed to come from the Exempt Organizations area of the IRS. Some others have included the name and purported signature of a genuine or a made-up IRS executive.

Taxpayers do not have to complete a special form to obtain a refund. Taxpayer refunds are based on the tax return they submit to the IRS.

 

How to Spot an IRS Scam

Many e-mail scams are fairly sophisticated and hard to detect. However, there are signs to watch for, such as an e-mail that:

  • Requests detailed or an unusual amount of personal and/or financial information, such as name, SSN, bank or credit card account numbers or security-related information, such as mother’s maiden name, either in the e-mail itself or on another site to which a link in the e-mail sends the recipient.
  • Dangles bait to get the recipient to respond to the e-mail, such as mentioning a tax refund or offering to pay the recipient to participate in an IRS survey.
  • Threatens a consequence for not responding to the e-mail, such as additional taxes or blocking access to the recipient’s funds.
  • Gets the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agency names wrong.
  • Uses incorrect grammar or odd phrasing (many of the e-mail scams originate overseas and are written by non-native English speakers).
  • Uses a really long address in any link contained in the e-mail message or one that does not start with the actual IRS Web site address (www.irs.gov). To see the actual link address, or url, move the mouse over the link included in the text of the e-mail.

 

What to Do if you feel you are victim of a Scam

The IRS does not initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited e-mail or ask for personal identifying or financial information via e-mail. If you receive a suspicious e-mail claiming to come from the IRS, take the following steps:

  • Do not open any attachments to the e-mail, in case they contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  • Do not click on any links, for the same reason. Also, be aware that the links often connect to a phony IRS Web site that appears authentic and then prompts the victim for personal identifiers, bank or credit card account numbers or PINs. The phony Web sites appear legitimate because the appearance and much of the content are directly copied from an actual page on the IRS Web site and then modified by the scammers for their own purposes.
  • Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine whether the IRS is trying to contact you.
  • Forward the suspicious e-mail or url address to the IRS mailbox phishing@irs.gov, then delete the e-mail from your inbox.

 

Genuine IRS Web site

The only genuine IRS Web site is IRS.gov. All IRS.gov Web page addresses begin with http://www.irs.gov/. Anyone wishing to access the IRS Web site should initiate contact by typing the IRS.gov address into their Internet address window, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail.