In one of the fastest growing forms of identity theft, crooks are using a stranger's Social Security number and other personal information to fool the Internal Revenue Service into diverting the person's rightful refund to the thieves' pockets, according to a Scripps Howard News Service investigation. The volume of tax- or wage-related identity theft complaints to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission more than tripled from 2005 to 2009 according to a Scripps analysis of more than 1.4 million ID theft records in the agency’s Consumer Sentinel database. Scripps national reporter Isaac Wolf also found another emerging — and increasing — criminal enterprise: Thieves using a stranger's identity to start electric or gas service at the the thieves' address. In 2005, the agency recorded 8,427 complaints for utility identity theft. By 2009, that number more than doubled to 19,934. In its investigation, Scripps Howard News Service also pinpoints the national hot spots for identity theft and offers an interactive map of complaints by ZIP code.
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