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Gephardt: Act Now To Keep ID Thieves From Claiming Your Tax Return

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – More than 70% of Americans get money back when they file their taxes. But for some, they discover a harsh reality that somebody else has already claimed their refund.

According to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General, last year the IRS confirmed 13,737 fraudulent tax returns and they were able to stop $184.2 million from going out to identity thieves.

Those are only the ones they caught.

“This is this is a billion-dollar problem,” said IRS special agent Casey Hill. “This is a big problem.”

Last year the IRS was able to stop $184.2 million from going out to identity thieves.

When Hill isn’t talking to news reporters, it’s his job to fight tax-related crime and he says identity theft remains a whopper. The encouraging news is that year after year, the number of victims is falling as is the amount of taxpayer money that is making it into the hands of identity thieves.

The best way to protect yourself is to file early, Hill said.

The crime works like this: a crook uses your Social Security Number to file a fraudulent tax return, claiming your refund. You won’t realize it’s gone until you do your taxes. But if you claim it first, it’s the crook who is turned away.

If you’re a victim, you can still get your tax refund, but it can take months or, in some cases, years.

“We’ve got to go and we’ve got to go through all these steps to verify that you are you, unfortunately,” Hill said.

It’s all taxpayers that suffer the burden of covering money that is claimed by a crook. Hill said the agency is sporadically successful busting a criminal but much of the organized crime takes place overseas and out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. So, the IRS has been heavily invested in stopping the crime in advance. Using computer programs, human investigators and public awareness, including stories like this one, the criminals are being thwarted in larger numbers.

In addition to filing early, IRS officials said having strong security software and passwords on your computer are the best ways to keep the bad guys out.

If you are a victim, the IRS has a list of steps you should take listed on its website.

KSL 5 TV Live