Officials Warn Floridians of Tax Refund Fraud

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Press Release: Florida Office of Financial Regulation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As Floridians prepare to file their tax returns, many may unfortunately find that someone has stolen their identity and already filed a fraudulent return under their name. Recently, the OFR has seen an uptick in the number of check cashers being presented tax-refund checks resulting from a fraudulent tax return filing. The OFR is alerting check cashers throughout the state to be aware of these checks. Many of these organizations are frequently used to cash the fraudulent refund check because the criminals might believe the transaction will not be examined as closely at a money services business.

“According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Tampa currently has the highest concentration of tax-refund fraud in the country, with Miami coming in second,” said Commissioner Drew J. Breakspear. “One of our top priorities is to work with our partners at the IRS, FBI and other law enforcement agencies to put together cases against those who perpetrate this fraud in Florida and harm the citizens of our state.”

“The Financial Service Centers of Florida have always emphasized the professional responsibility of our members to safeguard the public and ourselves through constant vigilance to identify and report fraudulent activities to regulatory agencies and law enforcement,” said Corey Mathews, Executive Director of the Financial Service Centers of Florida. “Through our continued efforts to assist our members with compliance education and reporting and our partnership with the OFR, we are confident that we can be a critical part of the solution in bringing these criminals to justice.”

The OFR recently issued an alert to check cashers throughout the state with tips on how to identify potentially fraudulent refund checks.

Tax-refund fraud has become the third largest theft of federal dollars, second only to Medicare/Medicaid fraud and unemployment compensation fraud. A report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration cites that in calendar year 2010, there were 440,581 reported incidents of tax-refund fraud. In calendar year 2011, that number grew to 1,125,634.

“Federal dollars are our hard earned dollars that each of us have paid as taxes over the course of the year,” said Commissioner Breakspear. “This year, the OFR is increasing our efforts to educate Floridians to help prevent this fraud.”

Citizens whose identity have been stolen and have had a fraudulent return filed under their name often have to wait longer to receive their tax-refund, putting additional financial pressure on the Florida economy. Floridians can avoid becoming a victim of tax-refund fraud by following some of these simple, but important, steps to secure their identity.

File your tax returns early. Begin collecting the necessary information at the end of the year and file your return as soon as possible.
Shred any paperwork that comes to your home or office that contains sensitive information, including your name, address, social security number, and/or account information. Do not throw it in the trash or recycle.
Never give out sensitive information to anyone over the phone that you have not verified as a legitimate source.

If you have reason to believe that you have been a victim of tax-refund fraud, you should contact the IRS. Click here to visit the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.

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