CLEVELAND - Identity theft is booming in the city of Cleveland.
According to a newly released report by the Federal Trade Commission, Cleveland reported the highest number of identity theft cases in Ohio last year.
Friday, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown announced he is co-sponsoring the Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act, legislation which would help crack down on fraudulently filed tax returns and speed up the return of long-awaited tax returns to Ohioans whose identities have been compromised.
The bill would also require the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Bureau of Prisons, and the Treasury Department to step up identity theft tax fraud prevention programs. According to the IRS, 1.8 million identity theft tax returns were stopped last year in the United States. With Ohio's population 3.7 percent of the nation's total, it is estimated that 67,000 Ohioans could have been affected by cases of tax fraud in 2012.
"Ohio's tax payers work hard, play by the rules, and deserve peace of mind when they file their taxes," Brown said. "This bill would help Ohioans protect the money they've earned, and ensure that victims of identity theft and tax fraud receive the help they need as quickly as possible."
Brown was joined by Thomas McIntosh, a Maple Heights resident who told his story of having his identity stolen, but through the help of Brown's office, was able to get his money—and identity—back. Together they offered tips on how Ohioans can avoid a similar fate.
"Having my identity stolen was one of the worst experiences of my life and something I hope to never go through again," McIntosh said. "The red tape and roundabout I got from the IRS made things even worse. But through the efforts of Senator Brown I was able to get my identity back and my money reimbursed. This bill would protect other tax payers from going through what I did."
The Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act would:
• Protect victims of tax-related identity theft by quickening the process by which they receive refunds and maintain a single point of contact as they go through the process;
• Shut down abusive identity theft and tax fraud schemes by placing restrictions on the ability to use prepaid cards for tax fraud and limit multiple tax refunds to the same account;
• Add critical new protections to safeguard social security numbers by prohibiting and penalizing the display, sale, or purchase of Social Security numbers;
• Strengthen laws and improve enforcement against tax-related identity theft;
• And accelerate the transition to a real-time tax system that protects taxpayers and reduces fraud by improving detection of fraudulent tax returns.