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Feds Crack Down on Tax Refund Check Fraud

The U.S. Treasury Department is cracking down on tax refund check fraud in South Florida, where scammers have stolen tens of millions of dollars over the last several years. Credit: NoDerog/iStockphoto.
The U.S. Treasury Department is cracking down on tax refund check fraud in South Florida, where scammers have stolen tens of millions of dollars over the last several years. Credit: NoDerog/iStockphoto.
July 14, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The federal government is cracking down on identity theft and tax-refund check fraud in South Florida, and issued new rules on Monday requiring check-cashing companies in Broward and Miami-Dade counties get a copy of customers' drivers license or passport, take their photo and thumbprint, and obtain a phone number if the amount of a check is over $1,000.

Agent Kelly Jackson with the Miami IRS field office says South Florida has seen an epidemic of criminals who get false I.D. papers, file fake tax returns and cash a victim's tax refund check.

"The Federal Trade Commission said Florida was number one in the country," says Jackson. "And South Florida was many times more the state average of identity theft and tax refund fraud."

The new rules are contained in a geographic targeting order issued by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, an arm of the Treasury Department. Jackson says the idea is to deter crime, and make it easier to track down the culprits.

She adds Floridians have been "ripped off" of tens of millions of dollars in the past few years.

"The identity theft epidemic hit Florida probably around 2012," she says. "One case in particular was over $12 million of checks."

Until now, the more stringent I.D. requirements only applied to tax refund checks over $10,000. The revised rules do not apply to payroll checks or personal checks.

When contacted, the ACLU of Florida said it had no comment on the privacy aspect of the issue.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - FL