By Lawyer Michael Minns
It’s hard to live in America and not worry a little about identity theft. These low life people get hold of your social security number and a couple of other items and boom… your name, your credit, your ability to buy a home or a car… destroyed. We see ads on TV every day about stealing the identity of other people and the problems that we then have to deal with. There are tons of services that will charge a fee to protect us. And then there are just good rules to live by that we can get from Grandma. “Don’t give your social security number out to people you don’t know.”… “Don’t give out private information on the phone to strangers, even if they say they are from the government.”
I had a client from Detroit who was outted on his new identity. He was in the witness protection program. He had watched some things that organized crime didn’t want him to watch, and had testified against them, and had gotten a new name. During an income tax indictment, he was told that he was no longer on the program and his original identity was exposed. You hear all the time that never happens. Well it happened to him. And shortly after that he was killed. As a sort of warped sense of humor a news man asked my client’s mother if she thought that the IRS had killed her son. She responded that she thought it was a cold blooded killer. Not sure she actually answered the question. The reporter asked me the same question and I had a more direct answer: “Nothing was stolen from the home so it was likely not the IRS.” I had just come from West Virginia where the IRS had raided a home, with a dozen swat team members… a little red light appeared on a small dog, and the client’s 10-year-old daughter threw herself on the dog to prevent the shooting. She saved the dog; but her parents nearly had a heart attack. The client reported a large amount of gold and silver missing… something a criminal might not do. The IRS had seized about half what the client reported missing (at least according to them). It has been more common than one would like, to see refrigerators raided, cigarette butts on carpets, and dead dogs, as IRS raids the homes of citizens accused of doing bad things on paper. If we spent the resources on rapists, and child abusers, and drug dealers that we devote to putting tax payers in prison… those crimes would be taken more seriously.
We had another client in Phoenix whose daughter was outted. There was nothing really to out except her social security number. The IRS entered her tax return into evidence without blacking out the social security number. A complaint was made. They said it was an easy mistake to make… and the trial went on… and her identity was stolen.
So these two cases are sort of wedged into my mind. Essentially identity taken advantage of by an overzealous IRS trying to harm citizens they are also trying to incarcerate (or their parents) and not being very moral about it.
The case of Stephanie Parker of Atlanta Georgia takes the cake though. Ms. Parker was indicted recently for stealing the identities of many tax payers, and using their dates of birth and social security numbers from 2012 to 2013 to file tax returns seeking refunds, and then stealing the refund money. How did these tax payers fall for her crooked scheme? What manner of slight of hand or phone scheme did she use to get their personal information? Well it turns out she has been an employee of the IRS since 2010. She just took it from personal private data that the tax payers themselves voluntarily turned over to the government.
Good tax paying citizens have to beware that they don’t turn over this sensitive private personal information to crooks. Now, what protection do good citizens have from the identity thieves working for the IRS? Not much.