MIAMI (CBS4) – The acting head of the IRS announced a massive national crackdown is underway to prevent billions of dollars in taxpayer refunds from being stolen nationwide.
The agency is also apologizing to identity theft victims over how long it’s taking for scammed taxpayers to get their legitimate refunds back. The national crackdown follows recent warnings the IRS could possibly issue as much as $21 billion dollars worth of bogus tax refunds over the next 5 years.
Task forces in 32 states began the year focusing on trying to make it harder for ID thieves to rip off taxpayer identities in the hardest hit areas of the country including New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tampa and Miami.
Federal prosecutors say South Florida remains one of the worst places in the country for Identity Theft and warn tax ID theft here is spreading like a virus.
U.S. Attorney for South Florida, Wifredo Ferrer explained, “We just had someone who owned a dry cleaning business got involved in this. We have ex-NFL football players here in South Florida committing this kind of crime. We’ve seen individuals working for holocaust survivors. We have seen folks in Social Security offices commit this kind of fraud and we’ve also had an indictment of an ex-marine who was committing this kind of fraud.”
The IRS said it’s also trying to get legitimate refunds back to identity theft victims like South Miami-Dade’s Lauri King. She’s been waiting since last March to get her refund back after learning her tax ID had been ripped off.
The agency confirmed it’s still got about 300,000 taxpayers waiting to get their refunds back after processing about one-half million checks so far for earlier victims. It says it’s trying to cut processing time, which is still running about 180 days.
Lauri King said she’s needs her refund now and said, “I think it’s insane. This is crazy, it’s ridiculous. I mean we’re going on 2013 already and I haven’t even settled up on 2011 yet, it’s ridiculous.”
Her case has finally been referred to the agency’s taxpayer advocates’ office after her problem was brought up to Senator Bill Nelsons’ office.
The IRS said it’s issued more than 700,000 special taxpayer identification numbers the past year to try and prevent victims like Lauri from having her tax refund ripped off a second time this tax season.