Coming soon to a theater near you: Identity Theft and the Skies of Darkness. Despite good ratings, taxpayers are giving it 100% on rotten tomatoes. Perhaps living in Hollywood (Florida that is) wasn’t the best choice for a man who finds himself facing his own personal drama as an accused fraudster, according to today’s Fraud of the Day from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
The article reports that the Hollywood man and a woman, who previously resided in Hialeah, each face a 15-count indictment that alleges that they received tax refunds of both living and dead victims. (Sounds like a fraud horror film.) The two are accused of filing 32 fraudulent tax refund claims, garnering $108,496 (solid box office numbers). But the allegations don’t end there. The man is accused of “causing the filings of 46 false tax refund claims worth $108,188” on his own. According to the indictment, he isn’t the only one accused of working alone. It says the woman “obtained approximately 1,712 income tax refund checks and electronic deposits totaling approximately $5,638,409.” (That’s more than some independent films make!). The two face between two and 20 years in prison per count.
Tax refunds are meant to go to the people who earned the money, and no one else. Why is this concept so difficult concept to understand? The defendants in today’s article are both innocent until proven guilty, but the case highlights problems we’ve seen before. Fraudsters steal the identities of the living and the dead to file false tax returns. So, it seems that the key to preventing the fraud is detecting the phony identity at the time the refund is filed. It is time to fight fire with fire. Is your revenue agency using an identity-based solution to fight identity-based tax refund fraud? If not, why not?