Florida Legislator Thinks He Has Solution For Identity Theft Epidemic

This is fitting. There’s no debating the fact that Florida has been the epicenter of the identity theft epidemic lately. This past year the state claimed 9 of the 10 top spots on one ID theft statistics list and it ranked #1 for tax return ID fraud.

US Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Identify Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2013 in the Senate this week and yesterday he picked up a pair of key co-sponsors: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

Senate bill 676 would tighten up both the prosecution and the recovery aspects of tax return fraud using fake IDs. It would require the IRS to resolve legitimate taxpayers’ refund requests within 90 days. The current time to resolve a claim of identity theft is closer to 200 days. The bill would also stiffen criminal penalties for scammers who claim undue returns.

It is clear that Florida has a massive tax refund fraud problem. Tampa and Miami hold down the top two rankings in the most recent report from TIGFA, the Treasury Inspector General’s data from 2010 shows a clear problem in the Sunshine State.

City, State # suspect returns filed $ Amount of refunds issued

Tampa, Florida88,724

$468,382,079

Miami, Florida

74,496

$280,509,449

Atlanta, Georgia

29,787

$77,113,392

Detroit, Michigan

23,870

$74,313,933

Houston, Texas

22,754

$72,089,847

Total

239,631

$972,408,700

“A thief needs your social security number and can file not necessarily even in your own name,” said ID theft expert John Sileo. “It’s a $26 Billion problem in next 5 years.”

To date, the federal government has done little to stop this sort of fraud. Audits of the IRS have uncovered hundreds of refund checks being sent to the same address and little has been done to reverse that. Perhaps Nelson is the man to unite the effort. As a former astronaut who circled the globe in 1986, he may be able to bring his vision to reality this year.

“From that perspective, you can see how we’re all in this together,” Nelson’s website reads. “If we could just remember that, we’d sure get a lot more done.”

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