INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Department of Revenue says that since the inception of a fraud-prevention program, hackers don't seem to be targeting the state's residents as much.
The agency says it has halted more than $111 million in refunds for at least 61,000 fraudulent tax returns since launching the Identity Protection and Fraud Prevention Program in 2014.
"That is money that would have gone out the door that we have stopped," Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp told The Indianapolis Business Journal. "Now we're preventing that from happening, and everybody recognizes Indiana in this particular space as being one of the leading agencies in the country at stopping tax-return fraud and attempted identification theft."
The department collects data on all tax returns, regardless of whether they're filed electronically or on paper. The program uses an algorithm to flag suspicious returns and an identity-confirmation quiz to protect legitimate taxpayers.
In its first year, the program saved $88 million in refunds that it otherwise would have issued based on fraudulent tax returns. That number dropped significantly in 2015 to $14 million and is at $1.3 million so far this year.
Krupp said the numbers show that the program is working.
Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center, called Indiana's program "almost a model process."
Velasquez said the agency is "essentially doing what we need to do on a grander scale."
Economic analyst Mark Hamrick says technology has made it easier for criminals to hack personal information like addresses, phone numbers and other personal data.
But Krupp sees technology as a huge benefit in evolving fraud detection, despite the negative consequences.
"Before the technology was available to us, it was hit and miss," Krupp said. "If an employee was going through a paper return. you'd have to rely on the ability to spot something."