ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A warning for taxpayers continues, as the comptroller of Maryland says tax identity scams are at an all-time high and plaguing thousands across the state.
Now, he says his office needs more power to put criminals behind bars.
The criminals behind identity theft are getting more bold and brazen. The comptroller says until his office has more power, they won’t be able to get a grip on what he calls an epidemic.
It’s a nationwide crisis that’s spiraling out of control. Thieves are digging around for personal information and cashing in your tax return, right here in Maryland.
“It’s kind of an epidemic of tax fraud,” says Peter Franchot, Comptroller of Maryland.
Just last week, the comptroller’s office sent out a letter, warning if you received it and didn’t file a tax return, you may be a victim of identity theft.
“We didn’t think it would get to the step where someone tried to file our taxes for us,” says Brian Bolter, a victim of tax fraud, who lives in Annapolis.
Thousands across the state have been taken advantage of.
“It’s quicksand, once you’re in it, it’s hard to get out,” says Franchot.
The comptroller says since January, they’ve stopped 4,500 fraudulent returns and confiscated $8 million.
Getting more authority to cover tax fraud and identity theft has turned into Peter Franchot’s top legislative priority, and had him testifying in Annapolis Tuesday.
“The key piece to puzzle is our staff, who are very knowledgeable of the issue, being able to prepare the case,” he says.
Franchot is fighting for what’s called the Taxpayer Protection Act. He says his office needs more power to prosecute thieves, subpoena powers and the ability to deliver warrants. Without control, Franchot says there’s no end in sight.
“Without more authority, we’re voluntarily asking crooks if they would give us info that would be used against them, and they’re criminals but they’re not stupid,” he says.
The bill gained a lot of support from the governor and attorney general and passed the senate unanimously.
It is now waiting for approval from judiciary committee. Anyone with suspicions or questions about being a victim of tax fraud is urged to call the revenue administration division at 1-800-638-2937.