NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The Internal Revenue Service is tackling a rapidly growing problem -- tax-related identity theft.
Last year, there were more than 640,000 incidents of tax fraud; most involving the theft of social security numbers to file false tax returns claiming monies due.
Tax identity theft has skyrocketed mainly because of the IRS push for taxpayers to file their income tax returns electronically and have refunds issued by direct deposit. But, often thieves open bank accounts, receive refunds via direct deposit, and close accounts before the theft has been detected.
The IRS will replace a lost or stolen refund check, but a stolen electronic refund in most cases will not be refunded until the bank returns the money to the IRS.
With the peak of tax-filing season approaching, the IRS has taken technical steps to guard taxpayers. "We've also enhanced our software, so that when e-file returns come in we can quickly ascertain whether or not that return might be fraudulent," IRS spokesman Clay Sanford explained.
In addition to the digital safeguards, the IRS is taking a hands-on approach to battle tax refund identity theft. "We've dedicated 3,000 employees that have been assigned to working with returns that might fall victim to identity theft."
IRS officials say they are trying to keep up with new tax fraud schemes. In 2012, Sanford said the IRS protected the money of millions of Americans.
"We stopped more than $20 billion in fraudulent returns going out last year. That was a big jump over the year before, which was $12 billion," he said.
Lastly, there's another good reason to file your tax return as soon as you can -- thieves simply beat legitimate taxpayers to the punch by submit fraudulent returns early.
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