Stolen Identity Refund Fraud

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: 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

Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) Enforcement

One of the Tax Division’s highest priorities is prosecuting people who use stolen identities to steal money from the United States Treasury by filing fake tax returns that claim tax refunds. Working to stop Stolen Identity Refund Fraud, or SIRF, is vital because these schemes threaten to disrupt the orderly administration of the income tax system for hundreds of thousands of law abiding taxpayers and have cost the United States Treasury billions of dollars.

SIRF crimes are often perpetrated by large criminal enterprises with individuals at all stages of the scheme: those who steal the 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, 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 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.

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 blocking the false claims for refunds from being paid.

The Tax Division has had considerable success in SIRF prosecutions, which have generated long sentences for those convicted of SIRF crimes. This page contains links to articles, websites, and press releases with information on how the Justice Department and IRS are dealing with SIRF crimes, guidance for citizens whose identities have been stolen and used to file false tax returns, and efforts by the Justice Department to prosecute these crimes.

Press Release Announcing SIRF Enforcement Initiative

Directive 144

April 10, 2013
AAG Memo Announcing Expedited Review of SIRF Cases (Sept. 18, 2012)

April 10, 2013
Statement of Assistant Attorney General Keneally before Senate Special Committee on Aging

November 4, 2011
Statement of Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Matters Ron Cimino before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management

Latest Press Releases:


January 9, 2020

St. Louis Resident Sentenced to Prison for Role in a Stolen Identity Fraud Scheme That Claimed $12 Million in Tax Refunds


December 4, 2019

Nevada Fraudster Pleads Guilty to Role in Scheme to File False Tax Returns Using Stolen Identities


October 24, 2019

Texas Man Convicted of Conspiring to File False Tax Returns with Stolen Identities Purchased on the Internet


October 16, 2019

Illinois Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Commit Wire Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft


September 11, 2019

Las Vegas Tax Return Preparer Indicted for Preparing False Tax Returns, Aggravated Identity Theft and Wire Fraud


July 16, 2019

Kansas City, Missouri, Woman Sentenced to Prison for Wire Fraud and Using Stolen Identities to File False Tax Returns


July 3, 2019

Maryland Woman Pleads Guilty to Theft of Government Money and Aggravated Identity Theft


May 16, 2019

Rhode Island Property Preservationist Indicted for Fraud, Money Laundering, Aggravated Identity Theft and Obstructing an IRS Investigation


March 5, 2019

New York Tax Return Preparer Found Guilty of Tax Crimes in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme


February 19, 2019

Brooklyn Tax Return Preparer Pleads Guilty to Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme


November 27, 2018

New York Man Pleads Guilty to Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud


November 27, 2018

St. Louis Resident Indicted for Role in a Stolen Identity Fraud Scheme That Claimed $12 Million in Tax Refunds


November 15, 2018

Former IRS Employee Sentenced to Prison for Aggravated Identity Theft


October 10, 2018

Louisiana Man Sentenced to Prison for his Role in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme


September 19, 2018 

Foreign National Sentenced to Prison for His Role in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme


August 29, 2018

Postal Employee Indicted in a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme


August 9, 2018

IRS Employee Pleads Guilty to Identity Theft


June 18, 2018

Maryland Man Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison for Role in Scheme That Used Stolen Identities to Fraudulently Seek Tax Refunds


May 30, 2018

Louisiana Woman Sentenced In Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud Scheme


May 2, 2018

Maryland Man and Woman Indicted For Stolen Identity Refund Fraud


March 28, 2018

Maryland Woman Sentenced to Prison for Her Role in Stolen Identity and Tax Refund Fraud Scheme


March 9, 2018

Alabama Resident and Ringleader of Multi-Million Dollar Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud Schemes Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison


March 2, 2018

Maryland Man Sentenced to 100 Months in Prison for His Role in Scheme That Used Stolen Identities to Fraudulently Seek Tax Refunds

January 29, 2018

Tennessee Woman Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Stolen ID Refund Fraud

December 19, 2017

U.S. Postal Service Mail Carrier Sentenced to More Than Eight Years in Prison in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme

December 11, 2017

Louisiana Resident Indicted in Stolen ID Refund Fraud Scheme

October 27, 2017

Two New York Residents Plead Guilty in Seperate Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Schemes

October 20, 2017

Nigerian Citizen Sentenced to 6 ½ Years in Prison for $12 Million Tax Refund Fraud, Voter Fraud, and Illegal Reentry


October 11, 2017

Florida Resident Pleads Guilty to Stolen Identity Refund Fraud


October 11, 2017

Tennessee Woman Convicted of Stolen ID Refund Fraud


Sep 28, 2017

Benin Man Sentenced to Prison for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud


September 19, 2017

Man Sentenced to Prison in Maryland for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud


September 12, 2017

California Internet Sales Company President Sentenced to Prison for Embezzlement and False Tax Returns


September 12, 2017

Four Members of Philadelphia Identity Theft Ring Plead Guilty to Conspiring to File Fraudulent Tax Refund Claims


September 11, 2017

U.S. Postal Service Mail Carrier Convicted in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme


September 7, 2017

Federal Court Shuts Down Louisiana Tax Return Preparers

August 31, 2017

Three Individuals Indicted in Nevada for Allegedly Stealing More Than $1 Million in Tax Refunds

August 14, 2017

Florida Resident Sentenced to Prison for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

August 14, 2017

Pennsylvania Return Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud

August 14, 2017

New York Tax Return Preparer Indicted for Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns

August 2, 2017

Pennsylvania Man Pleads Guilty to Identity Theft and Conspiring to File Fraudulent Tax Refund Claims

August 2, 2017

California Resident Sentenced to Prison in Fraudulent Refund and Stolen Treasury Check Scheme

July 28, 2017

Florida Return Preparer Pleads Guilty to Using Stolen IDs to File Fraudulent Tax Returns

July 27, 2017

Maryland Man Pleads Guilty in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme

July 19, 2017

Alabama Man Indicted in Alleged $19 Million Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

July 17, 2017

Florida Return Preparers Plead Guilty to Using Stolen IDs to File Fraudulent Tax Returns

July 14, 2017

Nigerian Citizen Pleads Guilty in Missouri to $12 Million Tax Refund Fraud, Voter Fraud and Illegal Reentry 


July 14, 2017

Massachusetts Man Pleaded Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRS Using Stolen IDs of Puerto Rico Residents to Claim Tax Refunds


July 13, 2017

California Tax Preparer Sentenced to More Than 14 Years in Prison for Using Stolen IDs to File Fraudulent Returns Seeking More Than $2 Million in Refunds


July 7, 2017

Former Teller at Maryland Check Cashing Business Indicted for Conspiring to Defraud the United States and Stealing Government Funds 

June 28, 2017

California Resident Pleads Guilty to Stealing Homeless Individuals’ IDs and Using Them to Seek Fraudulent Tax Refunds

June 19, 2017

Pennsylvania Woman Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to File Tax Returns Using Stolen IDs

June 15, 2017

Former California Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to File Fraudulent Tax Returns and Cashing Stolen Refund and Social Security Checks

June 15, 2017

Canadian Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud The United States and Steal Government Funds

June 7, 2017

Alabama Man Sentenced to Prison for Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns Using Stoled IDs

May 25, 2017

Florida Resident Pleads Guilty to Aggravated Identity Theft and Conspiring to File Fraudulent Tax Returns

May 24, 2017

California Man Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Prisoner Identities and Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns

May 24, 2017

California Man Sentenced to Prison for Stealing IDs and U.S. Treasury Checks

May 3, 2017

Georgia Woman Sentenced to Prison for Her Role in a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

May 3, 2017

Illinois Woman Sentenced to Prison for Filing Tax Returns Using Stolen IDs

April 26, 2017

IRS Employee Indicted for Stealing Taxpayers' IDs and Filing Fraudulent Returns

April 26, 2017

Oregan Woman Sentenced to Prison for ID Theft

April 20, 2017

Florida Return Preparers Indicted for Using Stolen IDs to File Fraudulent Tax Returns

April 19, 2017

Three Indicted in Florida for Using Stolen IDs to File Tax Returns Claiming More Than $6.8 Million in Fraudulent Refunds

March 31, 2017

California Resident Convicted of Supplying Fake IDs to Cash Stolen and Fraudulently Obtained U.S. Treasury Checks

March 30, 2017

Missouri Man Indicted For $12 Million Tax Refund Fraud, Voter Fraud, Illegal Reentry and Felon in Possession of Firearm

March 27, 2017

Former Resident of Nevada and Montana Sentenced to Prison for Obstructing the IRS

March 7, 2017

Pennsylvania Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to File Tax Returns Using IDs of Puerto Rico Residents

March 6, 2017

Former Social Security Administration Employee and Two Others Indicted for Stealing IDs

February 22, 2017

Louisiana Return Preparer Pleads Guilty to Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns

February 21, 2017

Three People Found Guilty of Taking Part in Scheme That Used Stolen Identifying Information to Fraudulently Seek Millions in Tax Refunds

February 15, 2017

Check Casher Sentenced to Prison for Cashing Fraudulently Obtained Tax Refund Checks


January 31, 2017

Over 100 Defendants Charged in Government Impersonation, Fraud, and Theft Schemes Involving Tens of Thousands of Stolen Personal Identities

January 25, 2017

Illinois Woman Pleads Guilty in Stolen Identity Tax Fraud Scheme

January 18, 2017
Illinois Business Owner Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Identities to File False Tax Returns


December 20, 2016

Oregon Woman Pleads Guilty to Aggravated Identity Theft

December 20, 2016

Maryland Man Sentenced to Prison for Scheme that Used Stolen Identifying Information to Fraudulently Seek More Than $20 Million in Tax Refunds

December 19, 2016
North Carolina Woman Indicted for Conspiracy to Defraud the IRS, Assisting in the Preparation of False Tax Returns, Wire Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft

December 2, 2016
Former Rhode Island Tax Return Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Tax Preparation Fraud Scheme and Aggravated Identity Theft

November 30, 2016
Check Casher Indicted for Role in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

November 29, 2016
Kansas Tax Return Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Aggravated Identity Theft and Stealing Government Funds

November 28, 2016
Former Healthcare Employee Sentenced to Prison for Role in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

November 16, 2016
Georgia Postal Employee Indicted For His Role in a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

More SIRF-Related Press Releases

Links to Identity Theft Information and Resources

Updated October 28, 2020

Was this page helpful?

Was this page helpful?
Yes No