Federal officials are warning that Mississippi is quickly becoming on of the states with the most identity theft, which includes stealing federal tax refunds. Seven more Mississippians are being accused of using identity theft to steal hundreds of thousands in illegal refunds.
The seven are accused of stealing someone's personal information, filing for a tax return and then keeping the refund they illegal applied for.
US Attorney Gregory Davis says the thieves often target the poor, elderly or people in prison to avoid detection.
"The identities that are stolen in these cases are usually from people that do not have significant income which requires them to file a return. Those person are targeted by identity thieves to avoid the detection of a duplicate tax return filing with the IRS," Davis said.
Davis says one group stole more than $290,000 dollars in unwarranted tax returns this year after filing almost 200 fake returns.
These cases often come to light when someone attempts to file a legitimate return only to learn the identity thief has already filed.
In this case, the thieves apparently accessed a data base of full of personal information that is increasingly stored by businesses.
That is why Allen Bryant with the Secret Service says the most valuable thing in a business may not be the items on the shelf.
"The lessons to be taken away from these cases and the caution that I want to give to business owners out there, is no longer are your equipment and you inventories the most valuable thing that your protect and you watch over in your business. It is quickly becoming the identities of your customers. Their information," Bryant said.
So far this year, 16 Mississippians have been accused of tax return theft, which is becoming a growing problem.
Gabriel Grchan with the IRS says despite heavy penalties Mississippi has move from 17th to 12th on the list of identity theft complaints.
"I can tell you that the average national sentence for people that have been charged for these crimes in this fiscal year has been 46 months. This is much more than just a slap on the wrist. This is a very serious crime with very significant consequences," Grchan said.
All seven people indicted are facing a variety of charges could spend up to ten years in prison if convicted.