Be Careful This Season: Turbo Tax Fraud a Hot Topic in Tampa
With tax time rolling around, there will be heightened concern about federal and state efforts to combat tax fraud. During the past several years, fraudsters have been able to use online tax software and stolen identities to squeeze millions of dollars from fake tax returns. In 2012, Operation Rainmaker, an effort by both local and federal law enforcement, uncovered $130 million in fraudulent tax refunds perpetrated by Tampa Bay area residents. Unfortunately, federal law enforcement still considers the Tampa Bay area as the state’s top hot spot for this type of crime.
In last year’s raid, Hillsborough County law enforcement arrested 49 people for identity theft and obtaining fraudulent tax refunds. To operate the fraud, criminals obtained stolen identity information such as a name, a Social Security number and a date of birth. After making sure the person associated with this information has not already filed a return, the criminals construct a tax return that yields a substantial refund, often worth several thousand dollars. The payoff is delivered by filing the fraudulent return through an online service such as Turbo Tax, which issues a prepaid debit card, a check or a direct deposit.
When those who own the stolen identity try to file their own returns online, their returns are rejected. It can take some time to discover exactly what happened. Because the data has become corrupted, fraud victims can have a great deal of trouble wrestling back control of their own tax information.
According to victims’ websites, such as Hacked by Turbo Tax, it’s too easy. The website outlines the absence of PIN systems and other safety checks that aren’t being used by electronic services or by the government to respond to this problem. As often happens, criminals are still one step ahead of the existing security technology.
If you face charges for tax fraud, you need skilled legal advocacy. The Matassini Law Firm currently represents several Tampa Bay area residents accused of participating in this tax fraud scheme.