Identity Theft Crackdown by IRS and Justice Department Targets 105 People in 23 States

As part of a stepped-up effort against tax refund fraud and identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Justice Department have announced that a massive nationwide sweep last week targeting 105 people in 23 states to crack down on suspected identity theft perpetrators resulted in 939 criminal charges related to identity theft, according to a news release on the IRS website available at: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=253147,00.html?portlet=108.

Working with the Justice Department’s Tax Division and local U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the coast-to-coast sweep included indictments, arrests, and the execution of search warrants involving the potential theft of identities and taxpayer refunds. IRS auditors and investigators also conducted approximately 150 compliance visits to money service businesses across the country last week to help ensure these check-cashing facilities are not facilitating refund fraud and identity theft.

The national effort is part of a comprehensive identity theft strategy by the IRS that is focused on preventing, detecting, and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. In addition to the law-enforcement crackdown, the IRS has stepped up its internal reviews to spot false tax returns before tax refunds are issued as well as working to help victims of the identity theft refund schemes. For more information on identity theft, visit the following IRS web pages:

Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s personal information without their permission to commit fraud or other crimes using the victim’s name, Social Security number, or other Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Taxpayers may be unaware that they are victims of identity theft until they receive a letter from the IRS indicating they filed more than one tax return or that IRS records show wages from an employer they have not worked for in the past.

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is data used for the express purpose of distinguishing individual identity and is defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget as any of the following:

  • Full name.
  • Date of Birth.
  • Birthplace.
  • Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Vehicle registration plate.
  • Driver’s license number.
  • Credit card numbers.
  • National identification number.
  • IP (Internet Protocol) address.
  • Face, fingerprints, or handwriting.
  • Digital identity.
  • Genetic information.

Along with tax refund fraud, the controversial practice of “offshoring” – where the PII of American consumers collected by businesses is sent outside of the United States and beyond the protection of U.S. privacy laws – may also increase the threat of identity theft. ‘ConcernedCRAs’ – a group of more than 140 Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) that perform background screening – opposes the practice of offshoring the PII of U.S. citizens outside the country to be processed beyond U.S. privacy laws since all protections against identity theft as a practical matter cease to exist once PII leaves the shores of the United States.

A new California law that took effect January 1, 2012 – Senate Bill 909 (SB 909) – addresses the offshoring of PII collected by employers during background screening by amending the California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRA) that regulates background checks in the state. Under one requrement of SB 909, background screening firms in California – and firms doing business in the state – must have a statement in their privacy policy titled “Personal Information Disclosure: United States or Overseas” indicating whether personal information will be transferred to third parties outside the United States or its territories. In the event a consumer is harmed by virtue of a background screening firm negligently preparing or processing data outside of the U.S., SB 909 provides for damages to the consumer. To read SB 909, visit: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_0901-0950/sb_909_bill_20100929_chaptered.pdf.

The growing concern of the practice of offshoring the PII of U.S. consumers outside of the country is one of the trends selected for the Fifth Annual Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Top 10 Trends in Background Checks for 2012. To view the list of the top trends of 2012 – including criminal record checks, credit reports, and social media searches – visit: http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-10-Trends-in-Background-Checks-for-2012.php.

Employment Screening Resources – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’ and nationwide background screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – is a member of ‘ConcernedCRAs’ and does not engage in the practice of offshoring. All work on domestic background checks is done in the United States. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.ESRcheck.com/ or call ESR toll free at 888.999.4474.

Sources:
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=253147,00.html?portlet=108.
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=251501,00.html.
http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/ci-idt-casemap.pdf.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM – provides accurate and actionable information, empowering employers to make informed safe hiring decisions for the benefit for our clients, their employees, and the public. ESR literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ or call 888.999.4474.

About ESR News:
The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@esrcheck.com.