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Ormond Beach Observer Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 5 years ago

Tax season cues extra fraud cases

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The IRS reports an increase in fraud cases the past few years. Two cases have been reported in the city within 10 days.

BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER

There are advantages to filing your taxes early, rather than late. And most of them are obvious.

You get your tax return, if you’re lucky, sooner, and then don’t have to think about W-2s and 1098s for another year. But filing your taxes early can also prevent a fraudulent return being filed with your Social Security number.

There were at least two reports in the last 10 days of Ormond Beach residents filing their taxes online, only to be told that someone else had already filed a return using their Social Security number.

The Internal Revenue Service recently reported a “significant increase in refund fraud,” as the number of reported cases throughout the country grew from 276 in fiscal year 2011, to 898 in fiscal year 2012. The IRS also said 542 investigations were initiated, as of Jan. 31, in fiscal year 2013.

“If you think you have been scammed, notify the (the IRS) right away,” said Officer Keith Feder, of the Ormond Beach Police Department.

Feder said some scams, like fraudulent tax returns, can be seasonal. Around Christmas, he said, there’s an increase in gift cards stolen from the mail. And just with the stolen gift cards, there’s little the local police department can do in regards to a fraudulent tax return, since they’re so difficult to track.

Of the 898 investigations initiated for 2012, the IRS reported 544 prosecution initiations, 494 indictments and 223 cases sentenced.

The IRS said there are signs that may indicate someone has been defrauded. Often with these frauds, there’s a balance due, refund offset or collection actions taken against a taxpayer for a year they did not file a tax return. Or, IRS records will indicate someone received wages from an employer unknown to them.

To protect yourself from tax fraud, the IRS doesn’t recommend carrying your Social Security card, or giving “personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.”

Additionally, the agency encourages residents to check their credit report every 12 months.

The IRS doesn’t use email, text messages or social media to contact residents to request personal or financial information.

With the number of tax returns being filed, and with the deadline looming, several tax professionals who were approached to comment for this article declined — they didn’t have five minutes to spare, some said.

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