Identity theft is the single fastest growing crime in America. Stolen identity information can be used in countless ways, but one of the most frequent uses is to carry out tax frauds. The IRS has estimated that in 2013, it received 5 million false returns, using stolen identities, which claimed over $29.4 billion in fraudulent refunds. Of these millions of returns, the IRS likely paid 900,000 bad refunds, amounting to $5.2 billion. The IRS has been trying to keep ahead of the wave of tax fraud incidents, using software to flag suspicious returns. However, in recent years, they have increased their focus on sending criminal investigators around the country to gather evidence and prosecute identity thieves.
Under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, it is a crime to “knowingly transfer or use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law.” This law, enacted in 1998, made identity theft a separate crime against the individual whose identity was stolen. Previously, victims were defined only by their financial loss, not by loss of security of their identity information. Banks used to be the primary beneficiaries of the law, but the focus has shifted to individuals. The law also established the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency responsible for collecting and following up on reports of identity theft, using the Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse. The law also increased the potential penalties to up to 15 years in prison, and allowed for the imposition of substantial fines. Some loopholes were also closed, making it a criminal act to steal personal identifying information, not just to produce or possess false identity documents.
If you are concerned that you may be under surveillance for identity theft, it critical to contact a defense attorney immediately. Often, criminal prosecutors spend months or years building a case before a suspect is even aware that they are on the radar. Usually, before an arrest is ever made or charges are ever filed, an agency has been watching the suspect for a long time. Because you cannot know what phase an investigation for identity theft may be at, it is important to never speak with an investigator without an attorney present. Investigators are trained to corner suspects using contradictory statements that appear innocent, but can later be used to damage your case and your reputation. If you are approached for an interview or questioning, contact an experienced white collar criminal defense lawyer before you agree to speak with law enforcement. Goldman & Associates will work tirelessly to prevent charges from being filed against you, to influence what charges are filed or how an arrest is made, or to negotiate a grant of immunity for you. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.