Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF)

Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF)

(Last Updated On: November 29, 2022)

Stolen Identity Refund FraudRefund fraud Refund fraud occurs when bad actors take advantage of a merchant’s return policy in order to profit or get goods for free. Refunding fraud is a twist on friendly fraud that is particularly challenging for merchants because there are no associated chargebacks, yes the losses are significant. (SIRF)

Impersonating Someone To ScamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. Their Tax Refund

How ScamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. Work – A SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Insight

What Is Stolen Identity Refund Fraud?

What is SIRF?

A tax refund is as much an asset as a diamond ring, and just as some thieves target jewelry stores, others specialize in stealing taxpayers’ identities in order to create fake tax returns that provide large refunds. The IRSIRS The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the revenue & tax service of the United States federal government responsible for collecting taxes and administering the Internal Revenue Code (the main body of federal statutory tax law.) It is part of the Department of the Treasury and led by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, who is appointed to a five-year term by the President of the United States. The duties of the IRS include providing tax assistance to taxpayers; pursuing and resolving instances of erroneous or fraudulent tax filings; and overseeing various benefits programs. Visit www.IRS.gov to learn more. is on the lookout for this kind of stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF), but you should be vigilant, too.

Thieves File a Tax Return in Your Name

Stealing tax refunds doesn’t require personal contact with victims. The thief obtains your name and Social Security number, then uses it to file an early tax return in your name, claiming a refund.

Often the first time you learn that your identity has been stolen for tax fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim. is when you e-file your own tax return online and it is rejected because someone has already filed a return using your Social Security number. Or if you mail your return, get a notice from the IRS telling you another return has been filed under your Social Security number.

Social Security Number Is the Key

Your Social Security number is the key to filing a tax return. If you omit the number or reverse a few digits on your tax return, the IRS rejects it out of hand. Just so, the SSN is also the key to tax identity fraud.

Criminals intent on committing stolen identity refund fraud need your Social Security number to file a return in your name. They have developed various fraudulent schemes to obtain the information, including:

  • Hacking data from agencies or businesses
  • Impersonating IRS agents in phone calls to you seeking your SSN
  • Pretending to be tax agents or bank officials in email requests to you for data

SIRF ALERT:

The IRS does not send unsolicited email, text messages or use social media to discuss your personal tax issues. If you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be an IRS employee and demanding money, you should consult the IRS Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts webpage: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts. If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.

More About Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF)

SIRF crimes are often perpetrated by large criminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. enterprises with individuals at all stages of the scheme: those who steal Social Security Numbers (SSN) and other personal identifying information, those who file false returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), those who facilitate obtaining the refunds, and the masterminds who promote the schemes. These criminal enterprises are able to exploit the speed and relative anonymity of highly automated systems for storing personal information, preparing and filing tax returns electronically, and generating income tax refunds quickly—often in the form of electronic payments.

Identities used in SIRF crimes may be stolen from anywhere.  For example, Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) criminals have used Social Security Numbers stolen from hospitals, nursing homes, and public death lists, thereby exploiting some of the most vulnerable members of our communities, including the elderly, the infirm, and grieving families.  However, everyone with a Social Security Number is potentially vulnerable to having his or her identity stolen.  The IRS estimated that during the 2013 filing season alone, over 5 million tax returns were filed using stolen identities, claiming approximately $30 billion in refunds.  The IRS was able to stop or recover over $24 billion of that total, or approximately 81% of the fraudulent claims.

Typically Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) perpetrators file the false returns electronically, early in the tax filing season so that the IRS receives the false SIRF return before legitimate taxpayers have time to file their returns. The SIRF perpetrators arrange to have the refunds electronically transferred to debit cards or delivered to addresses where they can steal the refund out of the mail.

Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) crimes cross state borders, and increasingly, national borders. Successfully prosecuting the wrongdoers involves a national strategy of information sharing and coordinated prosecution. The nationwide reach of the Tax Division’s centralized criminal tax enforcement and its ability to coordinate closely with every United States Attorney’s Office, and through them with local law enforcement and police, makes it possible for the Government to respond efficiently and forcefully to the explosion of SIRF crimes. As part of this effort, the Division has established an Advisory Board of experienced prosecutors to develop and implement uniform national policies for fighting SIRF crimes.  The Tax Division also implemented expedited procedures for working with the United States Attorneys’ Offices on SIRF crimes to ensure the quickest possible investigation and prosecution of these cases and has worked with United States Attorneys’ Offices, the IRS, and other law enforcement agencies, to establish task forces in areas with a high concentration of SIRF crime.  Additionally, the Division works closely with the IRS to quickly share information obtained from SIRF investigations and prosecutions, which the IRS can use to make it more difficult for the schemes to be successful by blockingBlocking Blocking is a technical action usually on social media or messaging platforms that restricts or bans another profile from seeing or communicating with your profile. To block someone on social media, you can usually go to their profile and select it from a list of options - often labeled or identified with three dots ••• the false claims for refunds from being paid.

Preventing Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF)

Take steps to prevent tax refund fraud. The first and most important step to protect your refund is to keep your Social Security number private:

  • Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number or any other personal information over the phone, even if the caller claims to be from the IRS.
  • Ignore and delete e-mails seeking your Social Security number even if they claim to be from the IRS or credit card companies.

Remember that banks, financial institutions and tax authorities won’t ask for this information in unexpected phone calls or emails. Moreover, they never threaten you with arrest or deportation if you refuse to provide the information they are asking for.

Dealing with Tax Identity Fraud

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of stolen identity tax refund fraud, the IRS is there to help you. It recommends that you take these steps immediately:

  • Answer any IRS written notice you receive by calling the number provided on the notice or visiting IDVerify.irs.gov.
  • Fill out IRS Form 14039, Identity TheftIdentity Theft Identity theft is when someone uses another person's personal identifying information, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. In both the U.K. and the United States it is the theft of personally identifiable information. Identity theft deliberately uses someone else's identity as a method to gain financial advantages or obtain credit and other benefits, and perhaps to cause other person's loss. The person whose identity has been stolen may suffer adverse consequences, especially if they are falsely held responsible for the perpetrator's actions. Personally identifiable information generally includes a person's name, date of birth, social security number, driver's license number, bank account or credit card numbers, PINs, electronic signatures, fingerprints, passwords, or any other information that can be used to access a person's financial resources. Affidavit and attach it to your tax return.
  • File tax returns and pay your taxes even as the fraud is being resolved.
  • File a complaint with the FTCFTC The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government whose principal mission is the enforcement of civil (non-criminal) U.S. antitrust law and the promotion of consumer protection. The FTC can also act as a clearinghouse for criminal reports sent to other agencies for investigation and prosecution. To learn more visit www.FTC.gov or to report fraud visit ReportFraud.FTC.gov at identitytheft.gov.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit records by phoning one of the three principal credit agencies.
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