Every dollar counts, now more than ever, as the government searches for ways to wisely spend our money. It’s dismaying to learn that an audit report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has found that the impact of identity theft on tax administration is significantly greater than the amount the IRS detects and prevents. Even worse, the “IRS uses little of the data from identity theft cases…to detect and prevent future tax refund fraud” according to Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.
The IRS is detecting far fewer fake tax returns than are actually falsely filed. 938,700 were detected in 2011. On the other hand, TIGTA identified 1.5M additional undetected tax returns in 2011 with potentially fraudulent tax refunds totaling in excess of $5.2B.
The study predicted that the IRS stands to lose $21B in revenue over the next 5 years with new fraud controls, or $26B without the new controls.
It’s nerve racking to realize that the IRS increasingly struggles to control taxpayer identity theft. Since 2008, the IRS has identified 470,000 incidents of identity theft affecting more than 390,000 taxpayers. “Victims of tax-related identity theft are the casualties of a system ill-equipped to deal with the growing proficiency and sophistication of today’s tax scam artists” said Sen. Bill Nelson, who chairs the newly formed Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth.
You’ve heard it all before – conduct online business through secure Wi-Fi only, watch your incoming mail for erroneous credit invitations, check your statements and your credit reports, and set up strong passwords and alerts, yada yada! But here are a few additional times you’ll want to be vigilant, especially this holiday season!
Car Loans. According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, auto loan identity theft is twice as high as any other form. Most dealerships have you complete paperwork with identifying personal data (name, address, date of birth, phone number) up to and including a loan application, which likely includes your Social Security Number. How is this data handled? Unless you actually purchase the vehicle, and your paperwork becomes part of a permanent file, refuse to complete it. Most dealerships simply toss your paperwork after 30 days if you don’t make a purchase. Their trash receptacle then becomes a pre-qualified source for identity thieves.
UPI.com wrote a story on the punishment for a recent Identity Theft case which shows how sentencing is finally catching up to the severity of this crime.
A Florida man who admitted masterminding an identity theft ring has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution.
Oscar Diaz and his confederates used items stolen from parked cars to get money from their victims’ bank accounts, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported. Prosecutors say they stole from people attending funerals.
“Diaz’s co-conspirators would even follow funeral processions in order to target cars parked at graveyards,” a release from Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said.
Diaz, 30, of Fort Lauderdale pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore earlier this month to aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. At a hearing Friday he was ordered to pay the victims $130,000.
Identity theft speaker John Sileo shares his tax-time identity theft prevention tips.
This past week, I have been helping a gentleman recover from the theft of all of his tax records. Before it is all over, this gentleman will have spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars simply preventing any further fraudulent use of his identity. That doesn’t account for any damages already done to his finances, criminal record, medical records or social security benefits. There is very little that is more damaging and dangerous to your identity than losing your tax records. After all, tax records generally contain the most sensitive personally identifying information that you own, including Social Security Numbers (for you, your spouse and maybe even your kids), names, addresses, employers, net worth, etc. Because of this high concentration of sensitive data, tax time is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for identity thieves. Here are some of the dishes on which they greedily feed: