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More than 10,000 LIers had income tax refunds stolen last year, Schumer says

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, citing statistics from the

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, citing statistics from the IRS, said 4,884 taxpayers from Nassau County and 5,403 from Suffolk had their identities stolen by criminals who then claimed tax refunds. Last minute tax filers, shown here, at the Hicksville Post Office in 2013. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

More than 10,000 Long Islanders had their income tax refunds stolen last year, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.

The senator, citing estimates based on Internal Revenue Service data, said about 4,880 taxpayers in Nassau County and about 5,400 in Suffolk had their identities stolen by criminals who then claimed tax refunds in 2014.

He said the numbers are "probably higher this year."

Nationwide, 2.3 million people were victims of tax refund fraud last year; more than 71,000 were New Yorkers.

The IRS lost more than $5 billion to bogus refund claims in 2013, according to the most recent available data. There were nearly 2 million cases of fraud in 2013, up from 440,000 in 2010, the agency said.

Schumer Wednesday attributed the rise in tax fraud to criminals who are more aggressively seeking to steal refunds, and the failure of some online tax preparers to verify clients' identities.

He said criminals file fraudulent tax returns early in the year, and request that refunds be paid to them via debit cards.

Taxpayers often don't know their refund has been stolen until after they file a return and are told by the IRS that a refund has already been paid. Schumer said it takes the IRS an average of more than 300 days to deliver refunds to fraud victims.

on Wednesday, the official deadline for filing returns, the senator called for the adoption of legislation requiring the IRS to pay refunds to fraud victims within an average of 90 days.

The legislation would also establish identity verification requirements for online tax preparers.

The Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2015 was introduced last month by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). It has six co-sponsors -- all members of the Democratic minority, including New York's Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. A similar bill didn't pass the Senate in 2013-14.

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