The number of identity theft victims plunged by 46 percent, to 376,000 people, CBS News reported. The significant drop comes after the Internal Revenue Service aggressively tackled what has become a multibillion-dollar scam industry that pick-pockets taxpayers' refunds.
According to the agency, the IRS stopped nearly one million fraudulent refunds from being issued last year, amounting to about $6.6 billion.
Identity theft, according to the IRS, occurs when criminals use taxpayers' Social Security numbers and birthdates to claim tax refunds.
“It’s a much more challenging time for the cybercrooks,” said Mark Ciaramitaro, vice president for retail tax products and services at H&R Block. “All of the easy paths have been closed.”
The headway made by the IRS, however, was a slow progression. The agency struggled for years to combat identity theft, particularly from 2010 to 2012 and "for a time overwhelmed law enforcement and the IRS,” said John Dalrymple, deputy IRS commissioner for services and enforcement."
In 2014, the agency identified more than 766,000 victims, totaling about $10.8 billion.
“We’ve driven a lot of the fraud out of the system,” Dalrymple said.
The IRS is susceptible for scammers because the agency issues more than $300 billion in tax refunds each year.
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