A Fayette county woman found out her identity had been stolen when the IRS notified her that she was getting a tax refund, but she hadn't filed her taxes, crooks had, and they'd made off with the money. Target 11 Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor takes a look at one of the hottest crime trends in the country.
Now that you can file electronically, it's easy for criminals to make up information, file returns and collect the refunds before the real tax payer does.
If you’re a victim, it’s a real headache. A woman from Smithville contacted us here at Target 11 to share her story.
Donna knew something was wrong when she opened a letter from the IRS saying her 2010 tax debt had been paid off from her 2011 refund.
"But then I got a sick feeling because I knew we hadn't filed that return yet," said Donna, who asked that we not use her last name.
She called the IRS and was connected to the fraud division, where she found out someone had stolen her identity and filed a bogus return.
"While we're waiting for our W-2's and all that documentation, they've already filed on you,” said Donna.
She contacted the credit bureaus and put a fraud alert on her accounts.
The IRS suspects Donna’s social security number was stolen by a crime ring that's cashing in on this new and very lucrative type of theft.
Last year, the IRS identified nearly a million fraudulent returns at a cost of $6.5 billion dollars.
"This doesn't just cost me. It costs all of us, because they're going to end up eventually giving my refund to me, but where does that money come from? All the taxpayers pay that out," said Donna.
Over the past year, Donna was notified of two security breaches, one at her bank, the other at her insurance company, and it's quite possible that's how the thieves stole her identity.
"So what's happening with your own tax return?" I asked. "It's basically on hold waiting for an investigator," said Donna.
The IRS owes Donna and her husband $1,600, but right now, that money is in limbo.
"The IRS said they're working the best they can, because they are aware of this situation, but with the age of the internet and all that, it's tough to stop," said Donna.
I talked to an IRS spokeswoman about this. She told me they're assigning more investigators to their fraud division.
Mail carriers are also on alert. They're often the first ones to notice more than one refund going to the same address.