Act seeks to combat identity theft, tax fraud

Identity theft and tax fraud victims - such as Michael Bucalo, whom I recently met in Cleveland - know "there are people out there [who] are so slick; they can steal your shoes while you are running." For criminals who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers, tax season is the time to cash in - on other people's hard-earned refund checks.

With more than 2 million suspected fraudulent tax returns currently under review by the Internal Revenue Service, criminals who steal identities to illegally obtain tax returns are creating a national epidemic. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a Chardon couple was charged with filing at least 35 false income tax returns, resulting in a total of at least $155,000 in false IRS claims. Reports also show Americans make about 50,000 identity theft claims to the Federal Trade Commission every week - mostly regarding tax refund theft.

Here's how it happens: Criminals steal taxpayers' Social Security numbers and file false tax returns early to steal refunds. Many Americans may not even realize their personal information has been compromised until they file their returns later during the tax season and discover their return has already been claimed. Identity theft and fraudulent tax refunds cost Ohioans time and money.

Hardworking Ohioans have to spend time navigating paper trails and re-establishing their identities - while missing out on the tax refunds they've earned. According to the Taxpayer Advocate's? Office, the average tax refund in 2011 was about $2,913. This is money hard-working Ohioans cannot afford to have taken from them by fraudsters. And our government cannot afford to hand out billions in illegal tax returns each year.

That's why I'm fighting to pass the Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act, which would protect Americans in three, simple ways.

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Act seeks to combat identity theft, tax fraud »