There is a new twist in the tax refund fraud FOX 13 has been telling you about for months. A local congresswoman is worried that tax cheats may turn violent.
Representative Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) recently sent a letter to the commissioner of the IRS expressing her concerns about the potential threat of escalating violence. She says an incident involving one of her constituents resulted in her writing the letter.
Castor says the constituent's children were home alone in Tampa when a man walked up to the door and asked for his mail. Their mother was afraid because she had just gotten a mysterious $12,000 tax refund check in her mailbox and it was made out to someone else.
The family also received several credit cards in various names in the mail.
This is one way crooks are cheating the system and stealing money: they file fraudulent tax returns in other people's names. Then, the IRS sends the check to whatever address they're given. It happens with credit cards too.
"At some point, someone's going to be desperate for these checks. These are criminals, fraudsters, and we don't want to put people's lives on the line," Castor said.
Rep. Castor is urging the IRS to do more to stop the tax fraud. The scams have plagued the Tampa Bay area for years, and the situation is getting worse. In Operation Rainmaker last September, local law enforcement busted a huge ring and uncovered $130 million in fraud.
"We've been pressing the IRS to make progress on it, but they're not doing a good enough job and I'm afraid someone's going to get hurt," Castor said.
Tampa Bay continues to be ground zero for tax refund fraud. Last Friday, Jermaine Lippett of Polk County was arrested for conspiring with a credit union employee to deposit fraudulent tax refund checks.
Investigators say Whitley Glover was paid $200 to deposit the checks with her employer, MidFlorida Federal Credit Union. According to an indictment, the fraudulent refunds and other checks totaled more than $60,000.
The IRS says it has taken steps to protect taxpayers, like new screening filters and a special unit to focus on fraud. But Castor says it's not nearly enough, and it's getting dangerous.
"The IRS has not had the technological tools. They have not had the investigators. They haven't had the folks on the street," she said.
The congresswoman asks anyone who suspects fraudulent activity to call law enforcement.
Tampa Police wouldn't comment on the incident involving the man who asked the children for his mail. The department handed the case over the IRS.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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