If you think your identity could never be stolen, think again. According to Symantec’s 2017 Internet Security Report, 1,209 security breaches occurred in 2016 exposing 1.1 billion identities. If that doesn’t scare you, then consider that over the past eight years, more than 7.1 billion identities have been exposed through data breaches. (Got your attention now?) Today’s fraudster shows us how easy it was to use more than 125,000 stolen identities to commit tax refund fraud. He stole nearly $7 million from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during the process.
Today’s fraudster is a Nigerian man who had a co-conspirator network within the U.S. that reached abroad to West Africa. While he lived most recently in Maryland, he bought more than 91,000 stolen identities from a Vietnamese hacker who breached a database belonging to an employment services company in Oregon. (Most of the stolen identities he purchased belonged to Oregonians and Washingtonians.)
The Nigerian man used the stolen personally identifiable information (PII) to file more than 2,800 fraudulent tax returns over three years. (While he attempted to collect around $26 million from the IRS, he only got away with about $7 million in illegal tax refunds.) IRS investigators determined that he and his co-conspirators completed more than 2,000 wire transfers involving $2.1 million of fraudulent tax refunds.
The perpetrator of this heinous identity theft and tax refund scheme passed many of the identities he stole on to his co-conspirators in the Atlanta, Georgia area and Nigeria. He instructed them on how to use the stolen PII to obtain electronic filing PINs in the victims’ names from the IRS to file tax returns. (The fraudster also taught his co-conspirators how to make fake W-2 wage documents and to acquire and register prepaid debit cards in taxpayers’ names to receive refunds.)
After a five-day trial, the 34-year-old man was convicted in Oregon on 19 counts of mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Court evidence showed that he had invested more than $190,000 into the recent purchase of a new home in Maryland, used $175,000 to buy a townhouse in the same state, and was negotiating to build a hotel in Nigeria when caught. (He didn’t waste much time using those illegally gained tax refunds to live a posh life.) One of his co-conspirators, who happened to be his son has pleaded guilty as well. They are both awaiting sentencing.
When you think about the likelihood of having your personal information stolen, it is no longer if it will happen, but when. (Also, consider the fact that most identities sell for around $1 on the dark web. Talk about adding insult to injury.) Congratulations to investigators from multiple agencies who stopped this man from victimizing additional law-abiding taxpayers.
Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Nigerian man convicted in elaborate tax fraud scheme” posted on OregonLive.com.
A Nigerian man accused of obtaining more than 125,000 stolen taxpayer identities from across the United States has been convicted in federal court in Oregon on 19 counts of mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
A jury in Medford returned the verdicts Friday against Emmanuel Oluwatosin Kazeem, 34, who lived most recently in Bowie, Maryland.