It’s National Tax Identity Theft Awareness week—an appropriate time for officials in South Florida to reveal charges against 104 individuals accused of stealing identities. Members of the group are accused of stealing over 30,000 identities to rake in more than $60 million in schemes targeting agencies including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, announced the action along with officials from both local and federal agencies involved in the massive action. Southern Florida experiences more identity theft than any other part of the nation. In all, this week’s announcement involves 81 separate cases.
Charges encompass a variety of crimes; the list includes IRS employee impersonation, bank account takeover fraud, income tax refund fraud, and theft of public benefits like unemployment insurance.
Ferrer said, “Today’s announcement demonstrates that the collective response by our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners has had a profound impact on protecting the community from identity theft.”
At a press conference January 31st, officials stressed they saw an increase in unemployment benefits theft and Social Security benefits theft.
“Several victims whose credit or debit cards were found during the search also had their identities used to file for unemployment benefits,” Ferrer’s office warned.
In these instances, victims did not know the accused ID thief and had not filed for unemployment benefits in the last five years or more.
Not surprisingly, income tax refund fraud continues to be a major concern amongst government officials. This tax filing season comes with an added warning.
“I urge taxpayers to protect their personal information and remain vigilant when choosing a return preparer. Beware of return preparers who claim they can get you a ‘higher’ refund then another preparer and those that set their fee based on a percentage of your refund. Ultimately, the taxpayer is responsible for what is filed with the IRS, so choose wisely,” said Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigations.
ID Watchdog suggests you brush up on ways to spot a fraudulent preparer before turning over your sensitive tax information and Social Security number.