Earlier this week, Marc A. Bell, a juvenile justice worker was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in an income tax identity theft ring operated out of a Washington D.C. barbershop that stole more than 42 million dollars in phony income tax refunds.  Bell used his position at the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services to steal the Social Security numbers and other personal information of 645 juvenile offenders.  He then provided this information to Kevin Brown, the owner of the Classic Kutz barbershop, who was the ringleader of this criminal enterprise who used the information to file phony income tax returns with counterfeit W-2s to claim the phony refunds.  Brown has also pleaded guilty.

TIPS

This case again emphasizes that regardless of how protective you are of your personal information, most importantly, your Social Security number, which is the key to identity theft, you are only as secure as the places that have your personal information.  This case also serves as a reminder to limit the places that do have your Social Security number.   Many companies, agencies and institutions, particularly medical facilities, routinely ask you to provide your Social Security number when they have no need for it.  A good practice to follow is to inquire as to providing another type of identifying number such as your driver’s license rather than giving your Social Security number when it is not needed.  Some people have dealt with companies that don’t have a legitimate need for your Social Security number, but still require you to provide it by giving a different number.  A popular number used for this purpose over the years has been former President Richard Nixon’s Social Security number which was readily available on the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File until recently.  That number is 567-68-0515.  Of course, I do not recommend that you use it.

It is also important to remember that the best way to defeat an income tax identity thief is to file your income tax return early, before an income tax identity thief can file one using your Social Security number.