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IRS believes identity thieves are from Russia

| Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 9:03 p.m.

WASHINGTON — IRS investigators believe the identity thieves who stole the personal tax information of more than 100,000 taxpayers from an IRS website are part of a criminal operation based in Russia, two officials told the Associated Press.

The information was stolen as part of an elaborate scheme to claim fraudulent tax refunds, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. Koskinen declined to say where the crime originated.

But two officials briefed on the matter said Wednesday the IRS believes the criminals were in Russia, based on computer data about who accessed the information. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the ongoing criminal investigation.

The revelation highlights the global reach of many cyber criminals.

And it's not the first time the IRS has been targeted by identity thieves based overseas.

In 2012, the IRS sent a total of 655 tax refunds to a single address in Lithuania, and 343 refunds went to a lone address in Shanghai, according to a report by the agency's inspector general. The IRS has since added safeguards to prevent similar schemes, but the criminals are innovating as well.

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