Tax refund fraud is a growing crime that costs the federal government billions each year. Eleven members of an identity fraud ring responsible for millions in fraudulent tax refunds were recently arrested in South Florida, an area where identity theft and tax refund fraud are significantly higher than the national average.
Over the past several years fraudsters filling and stealing tax returns from their identity theft victims has caused problems and significant losses for the victims and IRS. According to the Treasury Department duplicate and fraudulent tax return filings have stolen billions of dollars each year since 2008, when the scam became widespread. Florida, and in particular Miami, has been a major source of these types of crimes. According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission, Florida has the highest per capita identity theft rate of any U.S. state with 178 complaints per 100,000 state residents, while Miami has an even higher rate of 324 complaints per 100,000 people. But with the concentration of this illegal activity occurring in South Florida authorities have been able to catch and break up some of the fraud rings.
Eleven fraudsters from South Florida were recently arrested for their involvement in an identity theft and tax return fraud ring. The eleven defendants are accused of using the compromised identities of almost 7,000 people in attempts to steal $34 million from the U.S. government with fraudulent tax returns. The fraud ring also focused on getting tax refunds for the deceased as 2,700 of the identities used for fraudulent tax returns are on the Social Security Administration’s Master Death File. These scams have also targeted prisoners, children and others less likely to file tax returns to avoid the IRS detecting the scam with duplicate filings. To date, the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Florida reports charging 125 defendants accused of $126 million in tax return fraud.
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