The U.S. government took action in January against 389 people suspected of committing tax fraud through identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service said today.
The enforcement efforts, which the IRS said included 109 arrests and 189 indictments, came on the eve of the tax-filing season that began Jan. 30 and continues through April 15. The IRS and the Justice Department have been trying to fight an increase in the crime over the past several years.
Criminals with access to Social Security numbers and other identifying information file fake tax returns under other people’s names and claim their refunds. The crime is particularly prevalent at the beginning of the tax season because it works only if the fake returns are filed before legitimate taxpayers submit their own.
“We have aggressively stepped up our efforts to pursue and prevent refund fraud and identity theft, and we will continue to intensely focus on this area,” Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, said in a statement. “This is part of a much wider effort underway for the 2013 tax season to stop fraud.”
The IRS has refined computerized filters that it uses to examine suspicious tax returns for potential fraud and prevent refunds from being sent. The tax agency also has increased the number of people working on identity theft to more than 3,000, more than double the number from late 2011.
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