March 09, 2015

Cardin seeks tougher penalties for ID thieves

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Federal lawmakers want tougher penalties on criminals who commit tax fraud using a stolen ID.

 

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and others have filed a new version of a bill aimed at combating identity-theft-related tax fraud.

 

Such tax fraud crimes continue to grow in number and touch victims from all walks of life.  Just last month, authorities indicted four Florida residents for stealing the identities of assisted-living residents and medical-facility patients and using them to commit over $100,000 in tax fraud.

 

The legislation is designed to deter this type of identity theft by increasing the penalties imposed on criminals caught filing fraudulent tax returns using someone else’s identity.

 

“We have to increase the penalties if we want to get serious about deterring this type of crime,” Nelson said.  

 

A Government Accountability Office report last year found that identity thieves received over $5.2 billion from the IRS in 2013, an increase of $1.6 billion from the previous year. And tax-related identity theft has comprised the largest share of identity-theft consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission for the past five years.

 

Identity-theft-related tax fraud only requires a computer and access to someone’s personal information – but its repercussions can last for a long time. A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report released last year found that in 2013 taxpayers waited almost a year (312 days) on average to get their identity theft tax problems resolved – and some waited over three years.

 

Nelson and others introduced a similar version of the bill last year but it was held up in the committee process.  The legislation introduced today is cosponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein Bill Nelson (D- FL), (D-CA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).