The IRS has created a dedicated cybercrime investigation unit composed of roughly a dozen existing computer specialists and IRS criminal investigation agents, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The unit will primarily focus on the increase in identity theft cases, which have nearly quadrupled since 2011 and increasingly have a digital component. Attackers often use phishing and malware to obtain taxpayer information which they then use to file fraudulent tax returns. The victims often first find out about the fraud after they file returns only to learn that refunds have already been issued.
Richard Weber, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation, told the WSJ that his team has traced over $26 million in profits to Russia, Nigeria and several Eastern European countries. The uptick in criminal cyber activity has created a need for agents with more specialized digital skills.