Attorney R. David Cohen was recently convicted of sixteen charges related to an income tax identity theft scam he operated since 2011 which provided Cohen and his accomplices a million dollars of fraudulent federal income tax refunds. As is typically the case, Cohen used stolen names and Social Security numbers to file income tax returns and had the refund checks sent to various addresses he controlled. The checks were then attempted to be laundered through his attorney escrow account. One of the interesting aspects of this case was that Cohen used Social Security numbers of citizens of Puerto Rico which are particularly valuable to income tax identity thieves because although citizens of Puerto Rico are American citizens, they are not required to file federal income tax returns. This makes it easier for identity thieves to avoid detection as the people whose Social Security numbers they steal don’t file their own returns and thereby alert the IRS that crime had been committed. Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on April 26th.
Along with protecting the privacy of your Social Security number as best you can, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of income tax identity theft is to file your income tax return as soon as possible in order to get your return filed first before an identity thief has an opportunity to do so.