Nine individuals in Alabama and Georgia recently pled guilty to identity theft in connection with the filing of 7,000 false tax returns containing fraudulent refund claims in the amount of $20 million.
These individuals worked together to steal the identities of U.S. soldiers and prisoners. In one instance, an individual worked in a military hospital and had access to the identification of military personnel, including soldiers that were deployed to Afghanistan. In another instance, one of the defendants stole identities from the Alabama Department of Corrections. In a third instance, two individuals worked for a call center and were able to steal identities from that company.
After the fraudulent tax returns were filed, the IRS paid the fraudulent refunds via U.S. Treasury checks, deposits to financial institutions and prepaid debit cards. These individuals then cashed the tax refund checks at various locations, including a Walmart Money Center in Columbus, Georgia. These individuals conspired to cash the tax refund checks issued in the name of other individuals for a fee.
Unfortunately, there is no way to fully protect yourself from this type of identity theft. However, you can take precautions to protect yourself if you will be overseas for an extended period of time. Consider working with a family member to give power of attorney for your matters while you are gone and ask them to check your credit once a year even while you are deployed or traveling.
If any of your confidential personal data is in the hands of others, you are clearly at risk for identity theft. However, identity theft does not come without a cost if you are caught. The maximum sentences for these individuals range between 10 and 20 years in prison for each period. The government stated that it will seek significant jail time and restitution from these individuals who victimized unsuspecting American taxpayers, including the men and women serving in the U.S. military.