Identity theft can be a devastating experience that can turn a person’s life upside down. In an effort to combat identity theft and financial crimes in general, the IRS Criminal Investigation examines possible criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code and related financial crimes, including fraud related to identity theft. Each year, the Criminal Investigation gathers and releases statistics on the number of investigations initiated, prosecution recommendations, indictments or informations, and convictions as well as the incarceration rate and average number of months sentenced to serve. For the fiscal year ending September 2015, there were 3,853 investigations initiated, 3,289 prosecution recommendations, 3,208 indictments or informations, and 2,879 convictions. For identity theft investigations in particular, the statistics were as follows: 776 investigations initiated, 774 prosecution recommendations, 732 indictments or informations, and 790 sentencings. The incarceration rate for identity theft related crimes was 84.6% and the average number of months sentenced to serve was 38.
To help victims of identity theft resolve their cases, the IRS recently changed its former policy of refusing to provide copies of fraudulently filed tax returns. Recognizing a victim’s need to figure out just what personal financial information was stolen and how it was used, the IRS now allows taxpayers to acquire copies of tax returns filed fraudulently under their social security numbers. In order to request a copy of a fraudulent return, however, there are strict requirements that need to be met. One of the requirements is that the victim’s name and social security number must be listed as the primary or secondary taxpayer on the return; dependents cannot make requests. In addition, the underlying fraud case must have been settled by the IRS at the time of request. Finally, the copy of the fraudulent return will be redacted to conceal any information that might be related to additional possible victims. For more information on requesting copies of fraudulent returns, go to the IRS website.
There are many things you can do to protect yourself against identity theft. Here are some helpful tips that are listed on the IRS website: