WJTV News Channel 12 - Tax fraud not as easy to see on Tampa streets

Tax fraud not as easy to see on Tampa streets

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The tax refund fraud crime was rampant on Tampa streets a few years ago has quieted in the new filing season, though law enforcement says it is still fighting the fraudsters looking to steal identities and file fake tax returns.

"I think that the trend is down," said Jim Robnett, special agent in charge of IRS Criminal investigations in the Tampa area.

However, Robnett says the nearly two dozen agents working in the Bay area spent about 90 percent of their time working identity theft and tax refund fraud cases.

Robnett said that while fraudsters will continue to steal identities, the "success rate for filing false tax returns is much less than it was before."

Investigators say criminals still active in the crime appear to be less open about their actions and their new found wealth than they were just a few years ago when they drove high-end vehicles with fancy rims and bragged about their successes online.

Law enforcement officers also credit increased IRS filters, the arrests and convictions of some high-profile tax fraud players and a new Florida law in helping discourage the crime.

The new law, which went into effect last fall, makes it illegal to possess other people's identities (potentially a name, social security number and date of birth) without their permission. Previously, officers would have to prove someone's ill intent in using that information, which could involve a lengthy investigation.

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