State tax department blocked 160,000 fraudulent returns this year

The Ohio Department of Taxation forms and information on fighting Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud forms are displayed, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, in Cleveland. A new state quiz aimed at thwarting potential income tax fraud has left some Ohio taxpayers puzzled. The additional screening measures prompted 40,000 phone calls to the state’s tax department one recent morning, with many filers concerned about being duped by identity thieves, state officials said. Some residents have even alerted legislators, police and other local law enforcement officials. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
The Ohio Department of Taxation forms and information on fighting Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud forms are displayed, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio is seeing a significant increase this year in attempts by scammers to steal state money through fraudulent income tax returns, state tax officials said.

Through August, the Ohio Department of Taxation said it’s blocked more than 168,000 fraudulent returns seeking more than $160 million. That’s more than twice the 64,000 returns intercepted during all of 2014, which prevented $277 million in theft.

State officials cite increased security efforts with discouraging high-dollar refund requests from fraudulent filers this year. The additional safeguards included an identification tax quiz that some filers had to take to get their refunds.

While more than 90 percent of illegal returns were blocked in 2014, fraudsters obtained $28 million in improper tax refunds after likely using stolen personal information to file state returns, department analysts said.

The agency said it has recovered about $4 million and is seeking to get back more with the help of banks and law enforcement officials.

“We cannot just wish this problem away,” Tax Commissioner Joe Testa told The Columbus Dispatch. “It is real and requires constant vigilance, and Ohio is committed to doing everything we can to thwart and, whenever possible, prosecute these criminals.”

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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