Stolen Identity Tax Refund (SIRF) fraud costs the United States Treasury and law abiding taxpayers billions of dollars. (Perpetrators of SIRF fraud are difficult to catch and prosecute because it is easy to hide behind the anonymity of electronic tax returns.) A story posted on ABC13.com tells about two men who were caught hiding behind a tax refund fraud scheme that bilked the Treasury Department of more than half a million dollars. (That was a high price for the government to pay.)
Court records show that the two co-conspirators filed approximately 266 fraudulent tax returns using stolen names and Social Security numbers. The fake tax returns claimed nearly $1.3 million in refunds. The government paid more than $500,000 on reloadable debit cards that were mailed to the co-conspirators before the scheme was discovered.
The 31-year-old and 32-year-old fraudsters both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to submit false claims. The younger man received a sentence of 57 months and three years of supervised release, while the older man received a longer prison sentence for being a felon in possession of a fire arm. He received a 70-month jail term, plus three years of supervised release. They will both pay $544,846 in restitution for their criminal acts.
The story does not state from where or how the criminals obtained their victims’ names and Social Security numbers. (When you pause to think about how many places personal information is kept, it becomes a bit scary.)
If you haven’t already made an effort to protect your personal information, now is the time to begin. It is important to remember to protect your ATM and credit cards, meticulously check over bank and credit card statements each month, request a credit report at least once a year and subscribe to an identity theft protection service if possible. These efforts will go a long way towards preventing criminal efforts from having an adverse affect on your credit record and your life.