MOBILE, Ala. (WMPI) - Filing taxes online have become popular amongst hardworking Americans. It's just as popular for hardworking thieves, too. "The bad guys are more and more sophisticated in the ways they're trying to get information from unsuspecting individuals," United States Attorney Kenyen Brown told Local 15 News.
Brown and his team of investigators are trying to keep up with the evolving creativity of criminals to steal identities. He gathered with local and officers Thursday to educate and prepare them to spot potential identity thieves who see tax season as a major opportunity.
"If a law enforcement officer on the street makes a stop and there's a bag of 35 Wal-Mart cards, debit cards or gift cards, it could be that someone filed a false tax return."
Brown said Alabama is among the top 5 states for fraudulent tax returns. On the same day Brown was holding his meeting, Kenneth Blackmon Jr., a resident of Montgomery, Ala., pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and access device fraud, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced.
Blackmon admitted to acquiring identity information, to using that information on false tax returns, and to directing fraudulent tax refunds onto debit cards. He admitted to possessing at least fifteen Social Security numbers for the purpose of obtaining fraudulent tax refunds from the IRS, records show.
He faces 12 years in federal prison.
Other criminals, Brown said, pose as tax preparers and file an extra return using the personal information of clients, then have the return money sent to the preparer on a debit card.
In some cases, the IRS caught the scheme months later, realizing it overpaid on returns, then initially contacted the victim pay back the extra money.
"If you haven't seen the business sign up last week and now you see it during tax season, be very suspicious, " Brown said.
The IRS has identified about 460,000 victims of identity tax fraud since 2008; making prevention a top priority when it starts processing returns January 30.
If you have become a victim of identity theft through your tax returns, the IRS has set up a hotline to help victims recover. Victims can call 1-800-908-4490.
Local 15 News also wants to hear from victims of this kind of scheme. Contact us on our Facebook Page
or you can send an email to Local 15 News.