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Tax authorities stepping up efforts to combat identity theft

As Americans increasingly file their taxes online, identity theft has become a growing issue. People are stealing taxpayers’ identities, filing false returns and obtaining refunds of money not owed them (or the taxpayer). State and federal authorities, including the Internal Revenue Service, have been working diligently to prevent these fraudulent returns from going through and catch those who are guilty of this type of tax fraud.

Their efforts have been paying off. According to the IRS, the number of taxpayers who reported that tax returns were fraudulently filed using their identities fell by over 50 percent from January through September of this year. That’s a decrease of 275,000 victims. The IRS also reports that in that time period, it blocked 787,000 returns filed using stolen identities.

Much of the improvement in these numbers, which the IRS says has reduced fraudulently-acquired refunds from $7 billion to $4 billion in the last year, can be attributed to a number of filters installed to keep fraudulent returns from getting through the IRS systems. Banks have also taken steps to help prevent fraudulent refunds from making it into the wrong hands.

People who file their returns online are aware of some of the steps taken to help ensure their security. However, many of the changes aren’t visible to taxpayers. More safeguards are planned for next year. Nonetheless, the IRS as well as banks and tax professionals urge taxpayers to do their part by being vigilant about protecting their information and reporting any suspicious activity.

Identity theft charges can be extremely serious, but when alleged tax fraud is involved, you could be facing extremely serious federal charges. If you or a loved one has been accused of filing a fraudulent tax return using someone else’s identity, it’s essential that you seek experienced legal guidance to fight the charges or mitigate the consequences.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, “New programs reducing tax fraud nationwide,” Mark Williams, Nov. 04, 2016

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