With Tax Day right around the corner, it’s a given that the government will see an increase in fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities. When tax returns are submitted closer to the annual deadline, the chance is greater for having a criminal steal your identity and your tax refund check. To circumvent tax return fraud, many turn to a trusted tax preparer to file a return. An article posted on Examiner.com reports on an untrustworthy tax preparation business owner, who victimized his customers, making off with more than $350,000 in refund checks. (Sometimes it’s hard to protect yourself against fraud – it is everywhere.)

The story states that the 44-year-old tax preparer stole customer names, birthdates, Social Security numbers and addresses with the intent of filing fraudulent tax returns and requesting tax refunds in the names of the stolen identities. He then printed out checks addressed to his victims in an amount less a “tax preparation” fee, which was deposited into his personal bank account. Then, he went next door to a check cashing store and used fraudulent driver’s licenses to cash the checks.

The tax preparer pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He faces a maximum 20-year sentence for the wire fraud charge and a mandatory two year prison term for the identity theft charge.

Unfortunately, victims don’t know that their identity has been stolen until they try to file their federal taxes and the government reports back with the unfortunate news that their check has already been sent out – to someone else. For almost a year, this criminal cashed approximately $355,000 in fraudulent refund checks, victimizing his customers, who had trusted him with their personal information. It’s a pretty safe bet that this criminal will no longer be allowed to operate his fraudulent business in jail. (The only things he will be counting are the bars on his jail cell.)

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