The Justice Department is stepping up enforcement against scammers seeking to get fraudulent tax refunds using stolen identities, a “rising threat” which has even caught Attorney General Eric Holder in the cross hairs.
“Over the last several years, stolen identity refund fraud has affected hundreds of thousands of Americans, victimizing honest citizens and draining billions of taxpayer dollars from the U.S. Treasury,” Holder said Monday in a video message warning people about tax refund fraud — in which criminals use personal information to file false returns with the IRS to collect tax refunds — as the April 15 tax deadline approaches.
Last year the IRS reported resolving and closing about 963,000 cases of identity theft and the Justice Department charged more than 880 defendants with the crime of identity theft.
According to Holder, the Justice Department and their allies are stepping up efforts against these types of crimes, especially as the scale and scope of such scams have increased.
“The Justice Department will use every tool at its disposal to go after these scammers. And we’ll keep working with the IRS, the FBI, the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service, and other federal law enforcement agencies – as well as state and local law authorities – to combat these crimes,” he said.
“But we need members of the public to do their part by staying vigilant. After all, identity thieves can target anyone — something I saw firsthand last year, when two people attempted to get a fraudulent tax refund using my personal information,” he added.
Indeed, last year two men — Yafait Tadesse and Eyaso Abebe — plead guilty to filing false tax returns under a number of stolen identities, including Holder’s.
“So I urge all of you to help my colleagues and I raise awareness about this growing threat,” he concluded. “Protect yourself by reporting suspicious activity and filing your taxes as early as possible. And keep yourself from becoming a target by learning more about fraud and identity theft on the IRS website – or by visiting STOPFRAUD.GOV.”