Identity thieves may attempt to run off with your tax refund before you ever take the time to file your taxes. NBC 5 has learned this type of theft has caught many taxpayers by surprise and could lead to months of frustration for those expecting an otherwise fast refund.
It is not exactly known how identity thieves gather the information they need to file fraudulent tax returns, but tax experts said the perpetrators may be stealing social security numbers and other personal information.
Middle school teacher Adrian Thompson, 24, said he filed his taxes early. But an imposter ran off with his refund. It was money Thompson said he was counting on to put toward a vacation and classes for dental school admission.
“It’s a pretty big shocker and ruffles up some plans that I had,” Thompson said.
Taxpayers who file their returns online, for example, may receive a rejection notice claiming that their information has already been submitted.
The Internal Revenue Service urges victims to take the following steps:
1. File a report with the local police
2. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov
3. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on your credit records
4. Respond immediately to the IRS
5. Complete the IRS form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit
6. Continue to pay your taxes and file your return, even if you must do so by paper
The IRS told NBC5 that taxpayers who have been victimized will eventually receive their refunds. But expect a long wait.
“Whatever refund that you’re entitled, you will never lose it,” said IRS spokesperson Joe Munoz. “That money will go to you once the situation has been cleared.”
The IRS said the wait could take anywhere from 60 to 90 days. However, some taxpayers have reportedly been told that it could take up to nine months to receive their refunds.
The IRS estimated paying about $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds while preventing $24.2 billion from falling into the wrong hands during the 2013 tax filing season.
Munoz said the IRS has assigned more employees to help taxpayers who may be victims of identity theft.