You might try to file your tax return, only to find out somebody claiming to be you already has. It’s happened to a New Milford woman twice!
It was a race against time for Christina Arnold to get her tax refund before someone else did. She hoped if she filed early enough, she could get to her refund money before the person who stole her refund in the past struck again.
“I had this issue in2012 where they actually used my social security number and someone actually got the money,” Arnold explained.
She said she hadn’t expected to be hit twice by tax I.D. thieves, because the IRS had given her a pin number and flagged her account when her identity was stolen before.
But when she went to file last year, the IRS said someone else had already claimed her.
“I said well who did? They won’t tell me anything,” said Arnold. “She told me I had to re-do all the paperwork again.”
Tax identity theft happens more than you might think. It’s even happened to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, after two men got a hold of his social security number.
The IRS said in 2015, they suspended about 5 million suspicious tax returns. However, with only 2300 employees to work those cases, it’s easy to see why it’s taking months for Arnold to hear anything about her case.
“It’s a long process,” said Arnold.
The State of Connecticut faces the same uphill battle against mounting tax identity theft cases as the IRS. Department of Revenue Commissioner Kevin Sullivan, said they stopped about 21,000 fraudulent tax returns last year. They have about a hundred employees working all those cases!
“Well those are the ones that are confirmed we check more than that, far more than that,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan added, another reason it takes so long to get information when your tax refund is stolen, is that there is a rigorous process to prove you are who you say you are and the refund is rightfully yours.
“As far as Social Services knows, Social Security knows, IRS knows, that’s you,” said Sullivan. “So now they have somebody else coming along who happens to be the real you saying “’No! No! That’s me.”
Both the state and federal revenue service implemented new security measures this year they hope will crack down on tax refund theft.
The changes, which you might notice right away, affect people who prepare their own returns using tax software or online products.
Now, software providers will have to report to the IRS how long it took for each person to complete their tax return. They say this will help spot computer-generated tax returns that are fraudulent and filed in bulk. They are also three new security questions and stronger password requirements.
But as the government comes up with new layers of security, identity thieves find ways to get around those them. In many cases the culprits aren’t even in the United States when they steal your return, filing online they don’t need to be.
“It’s kind of a dynamic constant cat and mouse game and in this case cat and rat game,” said Sullivan.
Arnold wants the IRS to tell her the name of the person who used her social security number to claim her on their taxes. However, an IRS spokesperson told us they sometimes reach out to victims during an investigation to get information and leads, but they don’t tell victims who committed the crime, because it could jeopardize a possible arrest. You would have to find that out when or if the case goes to court.
“They won’t tell me who it is or anything and I think I have that right to know,” said Arnold.
So she just waits, hoping to one day find out who has been pretending to be her and hoping she won’t become a 3-time tax identity theft victim.
Arnold said she recently filed her taxes for 2015 and she’s happy to report that no one else has. She still hasn't been told when she'll get her stolen 2014 tax refund back. Officials said that could take a year or longer.