DENVER (CBS4)- The first day to file your tax return is Wednesday and the IRS is warning filers to be wary of tax return thefts.
Some 650,000 taxpayers nationwide had their refund stolen in 2012. Experts predict this year will be even worse.
The IRS estimates it could issue up to $21 billion in fraudulent tax returns in the next five years.
“I got an alert today saying my taxes have already been filed and I have not filed them at all,” said tax identity theft victim Vanessa Dowe.
Dowe’s Social Security number was stolen and the thieves filed a false return and collected her refund.
The IRS said the scam has exploded in the past few years.
Johnny Blade, a tax preparer for Liberty Tax Services in Denver, said he had first hand experience with one man who was trying to file a bogus tax return.
“The Social Security number on the W2 was not his,” said Blade. “I had to refuse the return.”
On Monday a Florida woman was convicted of filing $11 million in bogus tax returns.
The IRS is fighting back with more than 3,000 agents assigned solely to tax-related ID theft.
Another 35,000 have been trained to help victims.
Blade said to avoid being a victim never give out your Social Security number unless you are certain it’s safe. Also make sure your personal computer and passwords are secure. Check your credit report often for strange or unfamiliar activity.
“In this world now, I wouldn’t trust too many people,” said Blade. “File quickly and safely because if you don’t and somebody else has your information they’re going to file for you.”
In the past year nearly 500 people have been indicted for tax refund fraud. The IRS has agents available for questions or concerns about filing.