by Broderick Perkins
(2/9/2012) Erate Exclusive - You can run, but you can't hide from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Justice Department if you engage in ID-theft and tax refund fraud.
A nationwide sweep by the two federal agencies recently targeted 105 suspects in 23 states in a coast-to-coast effort that netted 939 criminal charges in 69 indictments related to identity theft.
A map of the locations shows legal actions across a large swath of the Pacific Coast, Southwest, South and Northeast.
The sweep involves the potential theft of thousands of identities and taxpayer refunds.
"This unprecedented effort against identity theft sends a strong, unmistakable message to anyone considering participating in a refund fraud scheme this tax season," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.
"We are aggressively pursuing cases across the nation with the Justice Department, and people will be going to jail. This is part of a much wider effort underway at the IRS to help protect taxpayers," Shulman added.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes using your name, Social Security number or other identifying information.
When it comes to federal taxes, taxpayers often aren't aware they are victims of identity theft until they receive a letter from the IRS stating more than one tax return was filed with their information or when IRS records show wages from an employer the taxpayer has not worked for in the past.
The crackdown included extensive compliance visits to 150 money service businesses in nine locations to help ensure check-cashing and payday loan facilities aren't facilitating refund fraud and identity theft.
The law-enforcement sweep reflects investigative efforts stretching back for years and is part of a national effort to stem the tide on identity theft by focusing on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible.
Taxpayers looking for additional information can consult the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=251501,00.html or the IRS Identity Theft Protection http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html page on the IRS website.
How can you protect your tax records? If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, etc., contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
Don't carry your Social Security card or any document(s) with your Social Security number on it.
Don't give a business your Social Security number just because they ask. Give it only when required.
Otherwise safeguard all your financial information.
Check your free credit report regularly only at AnnualCreditReport.com. Each year, you are allowed one free credit report from each of the big three credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, TransUnion. Get one from a different agency every four months and effectively create your own free credit report monitoring system.
Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches, and regularly change passwords for Internet accounts.
Don't give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.