Criminal Justice

Amidst 'epidemic' of tax-refund claims using stolen IDs, feds charge 25 in $36M fraud

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Amidst what a top federal prosecutor calls an epidemic of fraudulent filings for federal income tax refunds under stolen identities, a strike force in South Florida has charged 25 individuals in 19 cases involving $36 million in fraud.

The defendants include a jail guard accused of stealing the identities of inmates and a mail carrier accused of stealing tax documents, according to the Associated Press and the Miami Herald (sub. req.).

So far, more than $485 million has been sought and $106 million has been paid out by the U.S. government in such fraudulent refund claims since the strike force was established in August 2012, according to U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer of Miami. Some 300 individuals have been criminally charged.

“This has become an epidemic in South Florida,” said Ferrer at a news conference Thursday. “It is also becoming a consumer’s worst nightmare.”

Earlier this week, federal prosecutors in Houston announced charges against two individuals accused of obtaining $1.8 million in fraudulent tax refunds using more than 600 stolen identities, another Associated Press article reported.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service offer tips about how individual taxpayers can protect themselves from having thieves file fraudulent tax refund requests under their names.

See also: “Atlanta woman is victim of tax ID theft twice” “Tax identity theft: Why you’re vulnerable”

Dallas Morning News: “Feds: Texas man used stolen Puerto Rican identities to earn millions in tax refund scheme “

Portland Press Herald: “Identity thieves using scam to steal Mainers’ tax refunds”

Wicked Local (Wilmington Advocate): “Choose tax preparers with care”

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