Identity Theft Criminals Begin Taking Lives

Posted on February 18, 2022

Identity Theft Criminals Begin Taking Lives

Stealing identities of taxpayers is not only a paper crime; tax thieves have also committed murders to gain access to taxpayers’ personal information. In December 2012, a gang of tax identity thieves gunned down a taxpayer named Bruce Parton to steel his master key. It was a part of their scheme to file false tax returns and claim millions in fraudulent refunds.

It is concerning that identity theft has been rising every year, with Florida as the number one state for identity theft. The Chicago Tribune shares the enormity of the crime and the states in which it has become an epidemic:

“Parton was a victim of what officials say has ballooned into a massive, and dangerous, illegal industry that could cost the nation $21 billion over the next five years, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

While $21 billion is a relatively small sum compared to the $1.1 trillion collected from individual tax payers in the last fiscal year, the crime has been growing by leaps and bounds for the past three years.

“We are on the top of a national trend that is causing a lost of tax dollars,” said Wifredo Ferrer, United States Attorney for south Florida. “It’s a tsunami of fraud.”

While the IRS says it has detected cases in every state except North Dakota and West Virginia, the fraud’s epicenter is Florida, and it is mostly concentrated in Miami and Tampa.”

The crime is hard to track because fraudsters use various addresses from different states to file false tax returns. According to the Treasury Department, the number of recorded identity theft cases jumped from 48,000 in 2008 to 1.2 million in 2012. These are just cases that were discovered. Many cases of identity theft remain undetected.

Considering the big money that can be stolen by filing false returns, gangs are finding the crime easy and profitable. The Chicago Tribune shares the particulars:

“Tampa police first detected it in 2010 when officers discovered wanted street criminals engaged in tax fraud.

‘They were holed up in hotels with laptops churning out tax claims,’ said Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who represents Tampa, FL, and is pressing the IRS to get tougher on the fraud.

When agents raided a Howard Johnson in East Tampa in late 2010, they found suspects smoking marijuana and four laptop computers being used to file fraudulent tax returns on Turbo Tax, the tax preparation software, according to police records.

The suspects had lists of personal information containing more than 1,000 names and confidential personal information, multiple re-loadable debit cards, and records of numerous financial transactions. The investigation revealed that the suspects had been camped out in the hotel room for more than a week filing claims.”

The understaffed IRS finds it difficult to track and stop identity theft, though efforts have been made. However, the bulk of responsibility lies with taxpayers to safely submit their information with the IRS during tax season, until the IRS can protect taxpayers from identity theft crimes.