Scammers use identity theft to steal IRS tax refunds

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WEST ALLIS (WITI) -- Another form of identity theft is hitting the area and local law enforcement says it's a bigger problem than ever before. Victims of the scam are left waiting for the tax refund they've earned.

When attempting to file their taxes, victims report finding out someone else had already filed and received a refund using their information.

A West Allis man, who wishes to be identified only as Dan, had no idea someone was using his personal information. It was only after he tried filing his income taxes with an accountant on April 15th that he was made aware of the situation.

"The called me on my phone and said 'hey, something's wrong here. Can you give me your number again?' And they punched it again and said 'somebody's filed a fraudulent refund against your number,'" explained Dan. "Somebody's got my social security number and is using it against me."

Detectives with the West Allis Police Department are working to solve the problem. They say there are currently 20 cases filed, and they expect to see more.

"I've never seen this amount of the tax fraud and identity theft," said Detective Ann Phllippi. "The IRS has allowed individuals now to receive their refund on pre-paid debit cards, a variety of pre-paid debit cards, that require a minimum verification and are very difficult for law enforcement to trace."

Phillippi points out that in 2008, most refunds came in check form or direct deposit -- making it more difficult for criminals to get taxpayer money.

Dan says now all he can do is wait and hope to regain what is rightfully his.

"It is what it is. There's nothing I can do about it. Hopefully they find whoever did it. At least I hope I can get my return back," said Dan. "I had a lot of plans for that money. Now I'm waiting probably until October."

If you believe you've been the victim of an IRS identity theft scam, contact local law enforcement immediately and file an identity theft affidavit with the IRS.

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