Roberta Roper victim of tax fraud scheme - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Roberta Roper victim of tax fraud scheme

By Naomi Eide
Capital News Service

Shortly after her husband’s death, Roberta Roper enlisted the help of an accountant to file her taxes.  That’s when she found out her family was victimized — again.

Her husband, Vincent Roper, had died suddenly from a massive heart attack on April 4, 2013.  He had always done their taxes, she said.

With the April 15 income tax filing deadline looming, Roper, now 78, of Croom, Maryland, applied for an extension from the IRS. In return, she received a letter from the agency stating the return was already filed and the money sent to an individual in New Hampshire.

Roberta Roper

Roberta Roper

In 1982, Roper and her husband created the Stephanie Roper Committee and Foundation Inc. in memory of their daughter, a college student who was kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered on her way home on April 3, 1982.

Having spent 33 years as an advocate for crime victims, and 20 years as the onetime head of the foundation, now part of the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Roper said, she knew immediately to file a police report.

Though she cannot prove it, Roper said, she thinks someone used the information provided in her husband’s obituary to file the fraudulent return.

Roper is one of a rising number of victims of tax-fraud identity theft, a list that includes Maryland’s attorney general, Brian Frosh.

“Tax identity theft” is when an individual uses a taxpayer’s Social Security number to fraudulently file an income tax return and receive a refund, according to the FTC.

Recovery went on and on

From the IRS to filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to working with her banks to further secure her information, recovering from identity theft went “on and on,” Roper said.

“It was certainly an intrusion in my life that I didn’t need,” Roper said. “And it came at such an awful time.”

After more than six months, Roper received her refund and was notified by the IRS that her case was closed.

Maryland is one of many states working with the IRS to try to prevent and stop identity theft tax fraud. Complaints of tax fraud are on the rise, according to the FTC, and some victims face financial hardship as they wait for the IRS to resolve their case and give them their income tax return.

Tax fraud identity theft is a “huge issue,” which has grown exponentially over the last five years, according to Rob Douglas, an expert on identity theft.

The recent trend is “bad actors,” many from organized crime, have moved from filing fraudulent returns at the federal level to the state level, Douglas said.

Over the past two years, the federal government has made it a priority to limit the number of fraudulent tax returns, Douglas said, so last year was a “transitional year” and people began filing more illegal returns at the state level.

“If I am Maryland, I want to make sure I am not an easy target,” Douglas said.


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Maryland Reporter

MarylandReporter.com is a daily news website produced by journalists committed to making state government as open, transparent, accountable and responsive as possible – in deed, not just in promise. We believe the people who pay for this government are entitled to have their money spent in an efficient and effective way, and that they are entitled to keep as much of their hard-earned dollars as they possibly can. Contact the author.
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