The IRS’s tax return-related identity theft problem has officially crossed from item of interest to law enforcement and tax professionals to a disturbing problem worthy of the national primetime news. On September 21, 2014, tax return-related identity theft (also known as “stolen identity refund fraud”) was the focus of a 15-minute segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Biggest IRS Scam Around: Identity Tax Refund Fraud (www.cbsnews.com/news/irs-scam-identity-tax-refund-fraud-60-minutes). Among those interviewed in the segment were IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Deputy IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, Southern Florida United States Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer, and Miami Field Office FBI Special Agent In Charge George Piro.
The seriousness of the matter certainly came through to anyone watching, with United States Attorney Ferrer using a geographically-appropriate water analogy to describe the situation as “a tsunami of fraud.” Florida has been the hardest hit by these fraud schemes, and Ferrer was also refreshingly blunt on several key points: that the scheme is surprisingly simple and requires no more than a computer, a social security number, and a date of birth; that the IRS was not ready to deal with the large number of fraudulent returns; and that clearing up a victim’s identity theft refund claim with the IRS can be “a nightmarish process.”
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