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Identity theft complaints soar 14.7 percent in 2014

ID theft continues its romp as FTC's No. 1 complaint, part 2 of 2

In part 2, we'll analyze more stats from the Federal Trade Commission's 2014 Sentinel Data Book and report on additional general identity theft complaint categories that reflect how ID fraudsters rip-off individuals. Our goal is to enable you to avoid becoming an identity theft victim and pass along prevention guidance to your colleagues, families and friends.

On June 25, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that Tamaica Hoskin, of Phenix City, Alabama, was sentenced to serve 145 months in prison for acting as a ringleader in a massive scheme to file more than 1,000 fake federal income tax refunds that claimed more than $4 million in tax refunds between September 2011 and June 2014. She also had to return more than $1 million from the proceeds of the scheme. She conspired with Lashelia Alexander, who worked at a Walmart check-cashing center in Columbus, Alabama, to cash more than $100,000 in fraudulent tax refund checks. She also set up scam companies for check cashing. ( Click here for more details about how this fraudulent scam was designed and executed.)

As I wrote in part 1 of this article in the July/August issue, income tax refund fraud has taken the U.S. by storm in the past two years, accounting for losses of $6.5 billion in 2014 and projected to escalate to $21 billion in 2016, according to Tax-refund fraud to hit $21 billion, and there's little the IRS can do, by Matt Hunter of CNBC.

Every year, law enforcement agencies and individual victims report thousands of identity theft fraud cases such as this to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which then lists them in its annual Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) Data Book — a fixture since 1997.

According to the CSN, it received 42,547 more identity theft complaints in 2014 from 2013 (290,099 to 332,646) — a significant increase — which makes it the FTC's No. 1 complaint category again. Thus, identity theft has soared and still continues to be a major problem for consumers and businesses.

Here are ways you and yours can avoid this growing scourge.


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