Published: Jan 31, 2012 7:27 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Internal Revenue Service says the federal government has taken action against 105 people in 23 states in a crackdown against identity theft and tax refund fraud over the past week, resulting in arrests, indictments, searches and guilty pleas.
    
The sweep took place from Florida to Alaska. It was purposely timed to the beginning of tax season in an effort to warn would-be identity thieves that the government is actively trying to thwart them.
    
IRS officials say the use of stolen identities to file fraudulent tax returns, generally involving stolen Social Security numbers, is a growing problem. They said that last year, they found 260,000 income tax returns with confirmed instances of identity theft and stopped $1.4 billion in refunds from being paid to those filers.

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