(KMOV.com) -- The IRS has announced a major crackdown on tax cheats who file false tax returns using stolen social security numbers.
The crime has exploded in the last couple of years from 51,700 cases in 2008 to 1.1 million in 2011 when identity tax thieves stole an estimated $5.2 billion. The IRS said on Thursday that it conducted a nationwide sweep targeting 389 suspects which led to numerous arrests and indictments.
Creve Coeur Police helped uncover a St. Louis connection to the crime when officers arrested a woman recently after trying to cash a tax refund check at a credit union using a fake ID.
Prosecutors say 44-year old Patrina Taylor was one of the participants in an identity theft ring that stretched from St. Louis to Florida. Their ring is accused of filing 191 false tax returns using stolen social security numbers to receive refund checks that added up to $1.4 million. Taylor and the alleged ringleader, 27-year old Tania Henderson of St. Louis, have been charged in federal court in St. Louis.
Investigators say the thieves pay for social security numbers that are stolen from nursing homes, hospitals, schools and insurance companies. Usually, if the math adds up, the criminals can file a false return using bogus employment information and can cash the refund check before the IRS ever discovers any disparities in the return. The IRS is trying to stop the thieves by adding software that does a better job of flagging suspicious returns and doubling the number of investigators going after the criminals.
If you go to file your taxes and find out someone already has, you’ll still be able to get your refund but it’ll be delayed while you go through the process of proving your identity. The IRS has a lot more information on this exploding crime problem, how to protect yourself from being a victim and what to do if someone’s filed a return using your name and social security number. Go to irs.gov and then scroll down to the “Identity Theft” tab.