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Illegal immigrants made 1.3 million identity thefts and IRS isn't sure if cases were prosecuted
Illegal immigrants are using hundreds of thousands of "illegitimate" social security numbers to obtain employment and file tax returns. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Illegal immigrants made 1.3 million identity thefts and IRS isn't sure if cases were prosecuted

From 2011 through 2016, more than 1.3 million cases of identity theft by illegal immigrants were documented by the Internal Revenue Service, CNSNews.com reported. These cases involve Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, which are given to people who are ineligible to work in the United States or receive Social Security numbers.

The treasury inspector general for Tax Administration told CNSNews the IRS also discovered approximately 1.2 million additional cases involving scams by illegal immigrants in 2017. In these cases, a tax return was filed by using a Social Security number that either belonged to someone else or was made up, according to the report. The IRS calls this practice "refund fraud."

And the agency could not say if any of the cases were referred for criminal prosecution, according to the report.

The treasury inspector general for Tax Administration told CNSNews: "We identified 1,227,579 electronically filed tax returns, processed in FY 2017 through April 18, 2017, in which the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number on the return does not match the Social Security Number on the Form W-2.”

"Note that a Social Security Number may have been used on Form W-2 for more than one of these returns," the department explained.

The IRS placed an “employment identity theft marker” on 1,346,485 taxpayer accounts spanning from 2011 to 2016, a treasury inspector general report from February stated.

Using a stolen or fraudulent Social Security number is considered a felony.

How many cases were treated as criminal investigations?

CNSNews sent the IRS a series of written questions about the practice, including a question about how many cases were to federal law enforcement for criminal investigation and prosecution. The news agency also asked: “How many did they not refer to law enforcement and why not?"

TIGTA responded: "We do not have this information."

The written response went on to state:

Over the last few years, IRS-Criminal Investigation prioritized its limited resources pursuing identity thieves who stole millions of identities from innocent taxpayers and applied for, and received, tax refunds based on those identities.

Additionally, based on how IRS-CI captures case-related information and how prosecutions are based (the federal violation utilized), it is not possible to ascertain the exact information for the question regarding how many cases the IRS pursued criminally where [Individual Tax Identification Numbers] holders utilized another individuals' [Social Security Number].

To put it another way, in investigating the type of criminal activity that you inquired, IRS-CI, in addition to its traditional criminal tax statutes, would also likely utilize other statutes… which carry a more significant impact than the law cited in the 2004 TIGTA report regarding the fraudulent misuse of a social security number.

Are victims being notified?

People are being notified, but the majority of those whose identities were stolen for employment have no idea it happened.

The front page of the TIGTA report stated: “Most employment identity theft victims have not been notified that their identities are being used by others for employment.”

Part of the reason is that refund thefts are the first priority, not identity thefts.

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