“Identity Theft,” which opened in theaters on February 8th, features Jason Bateman, perhaps the best straight-man in the business, and Melissa McCarthy, whom we’re thinking is on the short list for funniest woman alive. Regardless of how the film does, we think these two need a lot more work.
Then there’s a real-life couple who are getting what they deserve. It appears that an Ohio man and woman were foiled in their scheme, involving the theft of more than 500 identities, because of their inability to spell. Indeed, tax filers in “Pittsburg” probably know how to spell the name of their city.
And while these situations are laughable, they do highlight a major problem–identity theft and the defrauding of the IRS. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service is being vigorous in their pursuit of identity thieves.
In an article we tweeted about recently, the IRS announced the results of a nationwhide sweep against identity theft, uncovering 389 suspects that led to 734 criminal and civil enforcement actions in January alone. This is on top of an anti-identity theft effort that led to 2,400 enforcement actions in FY 2012.
While the enforcement was focused on a few hotspots, many of which were concentrated in the northeast, this map shows that identity theft is a nationwide problem, with few states being left untouched by this trouble.
Big money is at stake here. According to another article on the crackdown, one woman was indicted for obtaining over $221,000 in fraudulent returns. What’s more, last year the IRS prevented more than $20 billion (with a B!) in fraudulent returns being sent out, up $14 billion from the year before.
$20,000,000,000…that’s way too many zeroes.
What struck us as particularly awful on the part of the identity thieves is not just that they’re costing all of us taxpayers money, but some specific taxpayers get added headaches as well. Consider it: The ID thief files their fraudulent return and the IRS pays. Then the real person files their real return, and the IRS says “Nope, sorry, you already filed.” So then that leaves the real person having to jump through a ton of hoops just to prove they are who they say they are.
To give you an idea of just how much this ID theft problem is getting (as though a “20” followed by 9 zeroes isn’t enough), the IRS gives out a special PIN for those victims of ID theft so they can file their returns without delay. In 2012, the IRS gave 250,000 such PINs. For the 2013 tax season, all of one month old, they’ve given out 770,000. Dang! So we’re just as glad that the IRS is cracking down, but there’s still a long way to go.
Be careful with your tax information, folks. Of course, if you’re having tax troubles (from people who are very careful with such info) or just have any financial questions, feel free to contact us.