Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue today announced the launch of a new Personal Income Tax Fraud Investigation Unit dedicated to assisting victims of identity theft and combating tax refund fraud, two crimes on the rise.
“The department understands that identity theft is frustrating for victims, which is made worse when a fraudulent tax return is filed in their name,” said Revenue Secretary Eileen McNulty. “This new unit will help ID theft victims to resolve fraudulent returns as soon as possible and protect tax dollars for all Pennsylvanians.”
Tax-related identity theft occurs when a criminal uses stolen information to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. To combat these crimes, the department constantly shares information about identity theft cases and scams with the Internal Revenue Service, tax administrators in other states and tax professionals.
Using various sources of information, the department continuously strengthens its automated fraud filters, which has flagged more than 27,000 personal income tax returns this year, an increase from 8,521 last year and 1,132 in 2014. Those returns were suspended and the department sent letters asking taxpayers to verify their identity before a refund would be issued.
The department is also making the process more taxpayer friendly by transitioning from identity verification by phone to an online quiz. Taxpayers who received a letter earlier this year with instructions to call a phone number will be directed to contact the Fraud Investigation Unit.
Receiving a letter means a tax return was flagged by the system, not that identity theft necessarily occurred.
“Scammers are looking for increasingly sophisticated ways to steal identities and claim a fraudulent refund,” said McNulty. “People and businesses should be on guard throughout the year to protect their private financial and tax information.”
The Fraud Investigation Unit was established by reassigning existing department staff and more effectively distributing work assignments to focus on the issue.
If you are a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent Pennsylvania Personal Income Tax Return was filed using your identity, please contact the Fraud Investigation Unit at 717-772-9297 or RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov.