IRS preventing billions in identity theft

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by Chris Willis, KGW Unit 8 Investigator

KREM.com

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 6:39 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 20 at 6:41 AM

PORTLAND -- The IRS is set to be scammed out of more than $5 billion this year. And that’s the good news. Agents are actually preventing billions more from being paid out in false tax returns.

Identity theft is big business, even for the IRS. The agency’s new commissioner, John Koskinen tells Unit 8 this is a priority for him.

“We stopped close to $18 billion of false returns from going out. We keep updating our technology systems, our filters. We're dealing with organized crime. These are not people filing a single return,” he said. 

Koskinen said dealing with these identity thieves is like dealing with organized crime. It’s a constant battle trying to stop scammers from filing bogus tax returns in other peoples’ names. Last year, the IRS prevented about $18 billion from being paid out in false returns. But it’s estimated they will lose $5 to $8 billion this year.

The IRS continues to monitor its security and update their systems. Phone scams, where criminals pose as IRS agents and call taxpayers demanding they pay or give out their personal information are a big problem.

So are online scams, where criminals use “official” looking documents to try and communicate with unsuspecting taxpayers.

It’s all a phishing effort to get personal information, which thieves will use to file a tax return in your name. It’s costly, says IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

“The numbers have been estimated in the range of $5 to $8 billion, which is a lot of money on the one hand, to the extent we collect $2.9 trillion, it’s a relatively smaller part, but that's down I think,” he said.

There is some good news though. Since taxes run on a three year back-cycle, if you did not file a tax return in 2010, you may still be due a refund.

In Oregon, there is $10.3 million in unclaimed tax returns, belonging to 14,000 Oregonians who did not file a return.

If you think you didn’t make enough money to file, or held a part-time job or if you were a student, you can go to irs.gov and see if you have an unclaimed refund.

The average amount per taxpayer who has unclaimed money is $519. But Koskinen said while he wants people to check and see if they have a refund that is unclaimed, he does not want them to respond to calls or emails from scammers.

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