Tax Refund Fraud’s been keeping Federal Prosecutors busy around South Florida according to U-S Attorney Wifredo Ferre who explains, ”Identity theft , tax refund scams are really no less than a Tsuname that is barreling towards us”.
And for Victims like South Dade’s Lauri King, waiting for help from the I-R-S is getting harder. She doesn’t know when the agency may get around to mailing out her refund and worries ” I think they are overwhelmed. I think this is something they never planned for, never expected to happen.”
It’s been 7 months since the South Dade waitress filed her tax return.
She expected to get her refund a few months later.
She’s still waiting and explains ” Just 2 weeks ago I mentioned to my husband, did we ever get our I-R-S refund and he said No. So we called and actually got to talk with a person and she informed us that we had an issue with identity theft.”
Miami now has the highest fraudulent tax return rate in the nation according to U-S Attorney Ferre who explains “Over 74,000 potentially fraudulent returns filed in Miami resulting in $280 million in bogus returns in 2010. The City of Miami per capita numbers of fraudulent returns based on I-D theft was 46 times the national average… this is absolutely outrageous”.
And while the I-R-S Investigates an estimated $5-point-2 billion dollars worth of phony tax refunds nationwide, tax payers like Lauri King are running out of patience while she waits for her tax refund. . “I feel like I’m nobody, i feel like whatever happens, happens. It’s a very defeating feeling, you work all year long, ..your one little bit of change you get can back to have a little freedom with. Nope..Just a name, just a number that’s all” explains King.
Several weeks ago CBS 4 News asked the I-R-S how many identity theft victims were still waiting to get their tax refunds?
The agency says it’s not releasing that information publicly and wouldn’t even let CBS Miami go inside it’s Plantation Customer Service Center with a camera to talk with taxpayers who are critical of the way the agency’s treating them.
It’s local customer service offices are so crowded, warning signs are often posted before noon that they don’t have anymore time to meet with taxpayers.
Miami Tax Lawyer Kevin Packman says ” I don’t see anything to assist them with getting a refund or getting the credit processed and going foward in any kind of expedited basis.”
He says Federal Prosecutors are making progress arresting the scammers, but he believes more needs to be done to help the victims and warns victims like Lauri “Could still be dealing with this somewhere for 12-18 months.”
I asked if he’s heard of people dealing with this for more than a year? he answered “Yes, definitely”
The I-R-S insists it’s changing procedures, tightening up its’ electronic processing systems to avoid more scams next season.
But what about getting tax fraud victims’ legitimate refunds back this year?
In a prepared statement, the I-R-S says:
“Refund times can vary depending on the complexity of the case, and we understand the frustration that taxpayer may have that have been identity theft victims. Along with taking steps toward faster resolution of identity theft cases, we are continuously improving the way we track and report on the status of all identity theft cases. We believe these improvements will reduce the time to work identity theft cases in coming filing seasons so that honest taxpayers will receive their refunds sooner. Additionally, better tracking and reporting means that we can spot – and correct – any flaws in the system more quickly.”
IRS Media Relations Specialist
But with mounting bills and the holidays right around the corner, some victims like Lauri King think 7 months is way too long for the I-R-S to get her refund back to her and says “The working public needs help to resolve issues like this. it’s hard enough going to work everyday and now you’re having your money stolen on top of it..and they you have to prove your identity to make sure you’re the correct person. I don’t know how far it’s gone, is it just the I-R-S check, is it other things? Where does it stop, how does the I-R-S stop it from happening again? Where does it end, does it happen next year, does it happen a year after that?”
A recent Inspector Generals’ report warned these scams could cost Uncle Sam $21 billion dollars in Fraudulent Tax Refunds over the next 5 years.
The I-R-S continues to ask victims to be patient while they wait for their legitimate refund checks to be mailed out.
But it still declines comment on what it’s doing to make sure next year… taxpayers refunds end up with the people who earned them, and not the criminals who’ve been so successful stealing them.
For more Information:
Identity Theft Affidavit – Internal Revenue Service