CLEVELAND - With the deadline to file your taxes is just days away, scam artists are out there right now waiting to defraud honest taxpayers. Last June, we first reported on taxpayers who couldn’t get their tax return because someone else filed with their identity. Now, an Ohio senator is pushing for change.
IRS identity theft increased five fold in the last four years. It’s impacting taxpayers like Michael Bucalo. He went to file his taxes in March, only to find out someone else already did.
“The people who did this opened a bank account. The IRS wired the refund to them. That account was closed within five days,” Bucalo said.
Now, he's paranoid about what the thieves are doing with his name, social security number and money.
“I haven't gotten my $900 back. They said it could be up to a year before I get my refund," said Bucalo.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is supporting new legislation that would increase penalties for criminals, give authorities more tools to fight the fraud and help victims get their money back faster.
Last year, it took five months and a call to 5 On Your Side for Sarah Madunicky to get her refund back after someone used her identity to file.
“It's very frustrating, because you work for something and it's owed to you and someone else can go right under there and take it from you,” Madunicky said.
It's such a common problem, the IRS issued an apology last year to a Congressional subcommittee meeting on this issue.
“It shouldn't take a year and a half. And we should get better at sorting this through,” IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said.
The IRS is looking for solutions. They're trying a pilot program where taxpayers use a six-digit pin to file a return. During the pilot program, the taxpayers will get a new PIN each year for threes years following ID theft.
"Anything would make it better, especially with a PIN that only certain people would have," Madunicky said.
Manpower is a problem, too. The IRS said only a small number of cases lead to a criminal investigation.
Checking your credit report is the best way to keep tabs on your identity. " Annual Credit Report " is the official free site that allows you to check your report. There are three credit reporting agencies, and you can check each agency's report once a year for free.
To keep tabs on your credit year round, check one report every four months.
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