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Florida No. 1 in the US for tax fraud

The identity theft rate in Florida -- with Miami as the epicenter -- is at more than 360 complaints for every 100,000 residents.

By MSN Money producer Jan 16, 2014 3:18PM

By Curt Anderson, The Associated Press


Florida has the nation's highest rate of identity theft, led by the fraud-wracked Miami area, and thieves are increasingly using the ill-gotten personal information to rip off the government through fraudulent tax refunds, said a top federal prosecutor.


The identity theft rate in Florida in 2012 was more than 361 complaints for every 100,000 residents, according to the most recent Federal Trade Commission data. Georgia was next at 194 complaints per 100,000 residents, followed by California and Michigan at about 122 complaints each and New York at 110. The 2012 figures are the most recent.

Among metropolitan areas, the Miami region topped the identity theft charts -- just as it has previously for Medicare fraud and mortgage fraud -- at more than 645 complaints for every 100,000 residents, according to the FTC. Florida has all five top identity theft regions: Naples, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fort Myers-Cape Coral and Tallahassee round out the national top five.


U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, whose district covers South Florida and the Florida Keys, said in an interview Wednesday that identity theft could spike even higher this year as income tax filing season gets underway. A criminal armed with only a laptop and an Internet connection can easily file hundreds of fraudulent tax returns seeking thousands or even millions of dollars in refunds, he said.


"This is the fastest growing and most pervasive scheme we are seeing," Ferrer said. "It spreads like a virus."


Ferrer said his office has prosecuted 270 defendants since an identity theft-tax fraud strike force was formed in 2012. Those cases involved some $449 million in fraudulent tax refund claims and about 76,700 identity thefts.


Even so, Ferrer said the Internal Revenue Service's inspector general has estimated there will be $21 billion in fraudulent refund claims made nationwide over the next five years.


"I believe we're at the tip of the iceberg of a national trend," he said. "We're not done by any stretch of the imagination."


Man holding cash © Rubberball, Getty ImagesSometimes identity thieves are people with ready access to large troves of personal information: health care workers, jail employees, even police officers. Federal law imposes a mandatory prison sentence of at least two years on anyone convicted of identity theft and using that information in a second crime, Ferrer said.


But prison terms can go much higher, depending on the amount of money involved and whether the perpetrator has an extensive criminal history. One Florida woman, Alci Bonannee, was recently sentenced to 26 years in prison for buying 800 identities from a hospital and using them to file for $11 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Another suspect recently got 13 years.


Authorities say there are some key steps people can take to protect themselves:

  • File your tax return as early as possible so you can beat potential identity thieves to the punch.
  • Don't carry your Social Security card with you, or any other document that includes your Social Security number.
  • Keep these sorts of important documents at home in a safe so they can't be stolen by burglars.
  • Shred documents before throwing them out to prevent thieves from finding personal information in the trash.
  • Don't give our personal information over the phone, through mail or the Internet unless you are certain you know who you're dealing with or you initiated the contact.

 


VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

80Comments
Jan 16, 2014 8:36PM
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The G.S.A. just 2 weeks ago announced that the Feds paid out 32 BILLION DOLLARS in fraudulent income tax returns submitted by illegal aliens. And the IRS does not even attempt to investigate even though they know it is going on.
Jan 16, 2014 8:26PM
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Don't use credit cards.  Too much identify theft. Pay cash. It is the only safe way in todays environment. I take the position that if I can't pay cash for it, I can't afford it.
Jan 16, 2014 6:00PM
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If you don't work and on welfare or someother kind of diability you have a lot of time to think how you can beat the system.
Jan 16, 2014 8:02PM
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When you leave your front door unlocked and wide open thieves will just come on in, just like any varmint. The only way to get rid of them is exterminate them.
Jan 16, 2014 8:08PM
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miami area is the epicenter of white collar crime and yes the local fbi office is a failure.
Jan 16, 2014 8:50PM
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It's no surprise that Miami is the epicenter - it's full of  "immigrants" both legal and illegal from countries notorious for fraud and crime.  They don't leave their attitudes of stealing instead of working at home when they come here. 
Jan 16, 2014 8:18PM
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Why worry?


Your government has a plan.


Your government is forcing you to pay for insurance for the freeloaders.


Never fear----------------------your government is here to help you !!!!!!!!!!!!!


Oh!!!   BTW------if you are an American taxpayer you are pretty well screwed, blued, and tattooed !!!!

Jan 16, 2014 8:33PM
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Huum .. Notice any correlation between the states listed and the percentage of illegal aliens?  I sure it is merely coincidental.  I have identified at least three illegal aliens using my SSN.  I sent a letter to SS admin., FBI - every one I could think of when a new (unneeded/ unrequested) SS card was ordered by the clerk who took SS information when I returned from Europe.  The (unnecessary, unordered) card came and where a second copy should have been attached, there were staple holes.  Need I add the federal clerk employee was a minority?  Nothing was ever done ... except every year when I file my income tax and Jose/Rastas files his at the same time.  I get audited.  I assume they cannot find them.
Jan 16, 2014 8:00PM
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And the ethnicity of the fraud inclined people is???????   Just wondering.
Jan 16, 2014 9:03PM
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Florida has always been the favorite state for con artists of all sorts. They seem to be able to operate from there with little or no authoritative intervention. Any visiting there are more at criminal risk than any other state, and have been for at least the last 100 years.
Jan 16, 2014 10:12PM
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The US Government and many hard working Americans do not want to see clearly what the number one cause to all this identity theft is, which are none less than Illegal Immigrants, who are simply running rampant around the USA. There are over 10 million Illegal Immigrants in California alone, the entire USA has over 40 million Illegal Immigrants in it, who are directly responsible for wage stagnation, welfare, medicaid, public housing and all kinds of intricate frauds. Illegal Immigrants' "Anchor Babies" should never be able to receive the US Citizenship and essentially Illegal Immigrants should not receive anything in the USA, which includes renting an apartment, buying property, buying an automobile to drive and use in the USA, work, collect welfare, receive public housing, medical care and every single Illegal Immigrant needs to be identified, detained and deported. Here's the solution: We need to make the Illegal Immigrants', their families and their countries of origin pay every penny of their Legal and Interpreter Services, imprisonment and food costs, medical care and any and every single other cost that associated with these parasites in the USA. The sooner US Citizens wake up and realize that their great way of life is being eroded by hoard of parasitical people, the sooner Americans can start taking action to have all the Illegal Immigrants detained and removed from the USA. Yes, we can do it! It can be done very easily and at the same time it will put US Citizens to work, as they will become employed to identify, detain and assist in the massive deportation of all Illegal Immigrants from the USA.
Jan 16, 2014 10:47PM
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Had 2 clients with filing problems due to stolen ssn's last tax season.  Both were half-year Florida residents.    If a criminal has the right info, the IRS' computer matching system is pretty easy to exploit.  I seriously hope they get their act together over at internal revenue, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
Jan 16, 2014 10:43PM
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Elevate the punisnment for these crimes..........
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As per usual they managed to use the big, bad white guy as the evil culprit. I suppose if it had been about ****ing, car-jacking, robberies, burglary, etc, they still would've used the same guy, kinda like Hollywood and television. Just can't seem to face the statistics, but instead go with some deluded version of reality.
Jan 16, 2014 9:41PM
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For a long time they have had your SS number on the Medicare card.  You have to carry that with you.  Is this being changed?
Jan 16, 2014 9:17PM
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Of course, because the  IRS is the dirtiest bunch of thieving bastards on record, From the top to the lowly boy in the mail room. Pityful. If we could get back all the money that the IRS has hidden, stolen or otherwise fraudulently obtained-it would go a long way towards our national debt.

 

Jan 16, 2014 8:13PM
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Have taxpayers owe at the end of the year-problem solved
Jan 16, 2014 8:09PM
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Obama says its o.k. to steal from the rich, and we've got to level the playing field. In Russia they killed all the rich to create there communist government.
Jan 16, 2014 8:22PM
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that's not the half of it,then if the crooks don't get you then the ground eats you. i prefer to be dead before burial
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