It’s tax season, the accounting profession’s most favorite time of the year. It used to be that taxpayers dreaded filling out the confusing tax forms just because they might owe Uncle Sam some money. But now, taxpayers fear having their identities stolen and used for filing fraudulent tax returns. Today, we take a look at two fraudsters from Queens, New York in separate cases that involve identity theft. Their efforts assisted other co-conspirators in carrying out Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF).
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) lists tax-related identity theft as one of their “Dirty Dozen” worst tax scams. The IRS states that although SIRF remains a top item on the list as an ongoing concern, there has been progress made in stopping this crime. Identity theft and SIRF can create a living nightmare that extends beyond missing out on a refund check to ruining your credit and your life. (It can be incredibly hard to reverse the damage done by criminals who use personally identifiable information (PII) to take out loans, open bank accounts and qualify for student loans in your name without your knowledge or consent.)
Both fraudsters in today’s article were enablers of SIRF. One stole student IDs from packages he delivered for a university in New York and sold them to co-conspirators who filed fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. (The victims would be unaware of the crime until they tried to file their own tax return. Since not all college students are gainfully employed while going to school, they may not even know that their identity had been used until much later.) The 44-year-old courier caused the IRS to lose between $250,000 and $550,000. He pleaded guilty to identity theft fraud and when sentenced, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and supervised release, plus restitution and other financial penalties.
The other fraudster also pleaded guilty to identity theft fraud for purchasing stolen IDs over a period of a year-and-a-half. He provided the PII to a co-conspirator who also filed fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. (This caused a tax loss of more than $40,000.) When sentenced, the 51-year-old man faces a maximum of five years behind bars, supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.
As the tax deadline approaches, the IRS has a few tips on how to protect yourself from SIRF:
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. (And, don’t forget to turn it on so it can automatically update.)
- Use strong passwords.
- Avoid phishing emails.
- Don’t be fooled by threatening phone calls and texts from criminals who pose as legitimate banks, credit card companies or the IRS.
- Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments from unknown entities.
- Don’t carry personal identification such as your Social Security card with you. Keep it and other identifying documents stored in a safe place. (Like a safe.)
The bottom line is guard your personal information and file your taxes as early as possible to make sure that this year’s tax season does not become the most dreaded time of the year for you.
Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a Department of Justice press release entitled, “Two New York Residents Plead Guilty in Separate Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Schemes,” released on October 24, 2017.
Two Queens, New York, residents pleaded guilty today for their roles in separate stolen identity refund fraud schemes, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
Kishore Jattan, 44, pleaded guilty to identity theft. According to the plea agreement and documents filed with the court, from April 2012 through June 2012, Jattan stole student IDs from packages he delivered for a university located in New York and sold the stolen IDs to other individuals who used the IDs to file fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Jattan admitted that he caused a tax loss of between $250,000 and $550,000.