It’s as if identity thieves are working overtime to get in their quota for the year.
“ID theft complaints this year have already surpassed the number received last year by 300 complaints,” said Kate Hanson, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
DeWine’s consumer protection section has received 1,646 complaints to date this year, up from 1,343 in all of 2014.
“A lot of people are discovering accounts in their name that they never opened,” she said.
Identity thieves use the victim’s personal information to fraudulently apply for income tax refunds, credit cards, and loans and to obtain medical care.
“Tax-related identity theft continues to be a big one,” said Hanson. “We encourage people to file their taxes early to try to prevent that.”
In addition there’s been a spike in complaints of scammers calling people pretending to be with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Treasury, part of the growing problem of fraudsters tricking people into sending money that the victims do not owe.
Between Nov. 18 and Nov. 25, DeWine’s office received more than 600 reports of what is called the IRS Scam. Nationally, nearly 4,550 victims gave fraudsters more than $23 million as a result of the IRS Scam since Oct. 2013, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. ‘
Elderly people are often the targets of the IRS Scam and another common one, the Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam, which involves the con artist asking the victim to send money in order to receive a non-existent sweepstakes or lottery payment.
“These scammers are really really good at what they do,” said Jonathan Blanton, chief of DeWine’s consumer protection section. “They are ruthless professionals who will exploit any weaknesses, any sensitivity they can find.”
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