DENVER (CBS4) – Some tax filers are finding identity theft is getting in the way of their refunds.
Credit cards, medical records, student records, bank loans, and job applications all have a social security number and are all places where thieves look to steal them.
Whoever stole Appolonia Bullard’s social security number used it to file a fake tax return.
I don’t know how this could have happened,” said Bullard.
The Internal Revenue Service gave her $4,300 return to someone else.
“It’s not their money. It makes me very angry,” said Bullard.
Bullard is one of the many victims of refund fraud.
In the first six months of last year 1.9 million taxpayers were victims of identity theft.
“We’re seeing an increase in this because the criminal element if you will have figured out what a lucrative and easy way of making money this is,” said Professor Bill Kresse.
Bullard now has the paperwork to prove she’s a victim of identity theft and is working toward getting her refund but tax advocate Jacquelyn Crossley Smith says it won’t be easy.
“Unfortunately, identity theft is a traumatic crime,” said Smith.
It could take as long as a year to get a stolen refund back which is why protecting your social security number is critical.
“If you have a social security number, If you have personal information you’re at risk of becoming a victim,” said Smith.
The number one tip to tax filers is to file fast.
“Identity thieves tend to file as early as they possibly can. When the actual taxpayer files it’s too late,” said Smith.
More tips include: never carry your social security card in your wallet, don’t give anyone your number without checking their credentials and once tax preparers finish your taxes, keep your original documents.
Federal officials estimate the IRS could issues some $26 billion in fraudulent tax refunds in the next few years if the agency doesn’t increase security.