Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chesterfield Hit Hard by Tax-Return Fraud, Police Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chesterfield Hit Hard by Tax-Return Fraud, Police Say

Article excerpt

CHESTERFIELD * This city is one of many experiencing a crime wave of tax return fraud.

The Chesterfield Police Department said Thursday morning it has responded to more than 500 cases of federal income tax return fraud this tax season. That's about 3 percent of the city's households.

The problem was far from limited to Chesterfield, as taxpayers everywhere were grappling with fraudulent charges. Frank Reedy, a certified public accountant and partner with Kerber, Eck & Braeckel LLP in St. Louis said his firm was experiencing a 10 percent rejection rate for e-filed returns because of previous fraudulent attempts.

Earlier this month, the Post-Dispatch reported that Ballwin police recorded 102 reports of such tax fraud in last year's tax season and have already seen 210 cases this year. That represents about 2 percent of the city's households.

The growing problem led the St. Louis and Maryland Heights police to begin taking reports of tax-related identity thefts. Maryland Heights had received 150 so far this year, which represents about 1 percent of households.

Authorities have called it one of the nation's fastest-growing and costliest crimes. The perpetrators steal personal data and use them to file income tax returns in hopes of getting the U.S. Treasury to issue refunds.

"Every now and then (the criminals) get lucky and get a return sent to whomever they needed to," said Chesterfield police officer and criminal intelligence analyst Michael Ryffel. He said his department was tracking the cases and documenting complaints from city residents.

About 2.4 million taxpayers were affected by tax-related identity theft were reported in 2013, doubled from nearly 1.2 million in 2012, according to a March report from the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The 2013 figure, which is the most recent available, represents about 2 percent of U.S. households.

A genuine tax return filer usually discovers the fraud when the Internal Revenue Service rejects a return because the Social Security number has already been used. Victims are in for a long hassle as they try to prove their identity to the IRS and get their refunds.

Reedy said the Internal Revenue Service made improvements in the past year to recognize fraudulent or robo-filed returns and hold up refunds when they include unexplained errors, for example, when a return has an incorrect spouse's name. …

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