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February 11, 2013

IRS is fighting ID theft

Tax season has the agency on high alert

NORMAN — This weekend, the movie “Identity Thief” opened nationwide. In the movie, a husband and father of three has his identify stolen by a crook who maxes out his credit cards, turning him into a wanted felon.

It’s a comedy on the big screen, but it’s no laughing matter for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which recently concluded a massive national sweep that nabbed 389 identity theft suspects in 32 states, resulting in 109 arrests and 189 indictments.

IRS acting commissioner Steven Miller wanted to reassure citizens that the IRS is working to eliminate refund fraud caused by identity theft.

“It’s one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS today,” Miller said in a conference call this past week. “In that fight, we are doing a much better job on all fronts, but we still have much to do. Working with other state agencies, we have to continue to increase the pressure on identity thieves.”

According to Miller, the IRS has a three-part strategy in dealing with the crime of refund fraud associated with identity theft. The first part is preventing fraudsters from receiving the refund. The second part concerns how they treat victims whose refunds are caught up in the system and how fast they can get innocent people their refunds. The third piece is enforcement and punishment.

The January crackdown, a joint effort with the Department of Justice and local U.S. attorney offices, unfolded as the IRS opened the 2013 tax season. IRS Criminal Investigation expanded its efforts during January, pushing the total number of identity theft investigations to more than 1,460 since the start of the federal 2012 fiscal year.

“As tax season begins this year, we want to be clear that there is a heavy price to pay for perpetrators of refund fraud and identity theft,” Miller said. “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. This is part of a much wider effort under way for the 2013 tax season to stop fraud.”

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