With identity theft running rampant this tax season, the IRS and the Justice Department have joined forces to crack down on fraudsters using stolen information to file false claims in the hopes of getting an undeserved return.
In late January, federal authorities launched investigations across the nation which targeted 105 individuals in 23 different states. The sweep culminated in 69 grand jury indictments along with 939 counts of criminal charges being filed by prosecutors resulting in arrests in Southern California, New York, the Midwest and the South.
“This unprecedented effort against identity theft sends a strong, unmistakable message to anyone considering participating in a refund fraud scheme this tax season,” said Doug Shulman, the IRS Commissioner, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Additionally, enforcement agents dispatched by the IRS investigated some 150 businesses specializing in money services in nine different areas considered to be high-risk, one of which was Los Angeles, in an attempt to discover whether or not they facilitated, knowingly or unknowingly, any sort of identity theft or tax refund fraud. Currently, there are over 250 check-cashing facilities under audit by the IRS throughout the country.
“ID theft is a growing problem all across the country, and we`ve come to find out that the tax system isn`t immune. They`ve figured out that just like they can steal credit card numbers, they can file false refunds,” said Anabel Marquez, a spokeswoman for the IRS, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. She claims that approximately 260,000 fraudulent returns were identified by the IRS last year.
The agency is focusing efforts on devising new screening filters to recognize identity theft which will help agents in the spotting of fraudulent returns prior to being processed and a return is issued.
Identity theft is what happens when an individual steals then uses someone else`s personal data such as their name, date of birth and Social Security number to perpetrate fraud and other crimes. In the case of a fraudulent tax filing, many victims are not aware of what has happened until they are notified by the IRS that more than one tax return was filed bearing their personal information or else the IRS has records of wages earned from employers the taxpayer has never worked for.
Anyone fearing they may be a victim of identity theft should contact the IRS immediately and measures can be taken to secure their tax account.