Tax Division taking steps to combat identity theft

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Identity fraud is impacting millions of Americans this tax season, and with a week left to file your taxes – it’s important to know how to protect yourself.

Call 12 for Action has been hearing that tax fraud has been running rampant at the state level all across the country. At the Rhode Island Division of Taxation, filers are getting anxious – and for good reason.

“This year we have about 16,000 returns under review for potential fraud,” said RI Tax Administrator David Sullivan.

Out of those 16,000 returns, more than half will be fraudulent.

“We’ve seen people who’ve been dead for a number of years we get a return from,” Sullivan said. “We’ve seen people file returns, and the address doesn’t exist in Rhode Island.”

Even students as young as 18 years old are finding out they’re being victimized by scammers who are trying to file falsified returns with their identities.

“You have to file six separate complaints in order for anyone to help you,” said Rachel Hickman, a high school senior who a few weeks ago found out she had fallen victim to fraud when her parents filed their taxes.

“My parents are trying to file their taxes and trying to claim me as a dependent as they always do, and they were denied that because it had said I had already been claimed as an independent,” Hickman explained.

Turns out someone had used Hickman’s identity to file a fake tax return. Sullivan said he’s got screeners going through returns page by page, looking for red flags.

“If we see direct deposits, 10-15 refunds going to the same bank account routing number, that raises a flag,” he said. “We also have ones we don’t discuss publicly because we don’t want fraudsters to be one step ahead of us.”

If you find out you’re a victim of tax fraud, fill out an identity theft affidavit and immediately contact the IRS and the Rhode Island Division of Taxation at (401) 574-8829 option 3, or by email at tax.assist@tax.ri.gov.

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