The Internal Revenue Service has identified more than 14 million suspicious tax returns since 2011. Fraudulent filings are becoming more rampant.
"It blows me away that someone would do this. I just don't get it," said Ann Thomas.
Thomas is dealing with a case of mistaken identity. A woman who's believed to be in Florida stole her private info.
"She has my name, my Social Security number and my birthday. Where she got it, I have no idea," Thomas said.
The impersonator went on several shopping sprees, trying to spend thousands of dollars since October. Thankfully Thomas and her bank have stayed on top of it, but this person still has her identity.
"I'm worried because of my taxes coming up. I don't want her to get into that," she said.
Tax ID theft is the most common type of identity theft.
"It's getting more and more common as everything gets more digital. It's a lot easier to steal people's info," said Brittany Hopp, a certified public accountant with Clayton, York and Hopp.
Tax experts say most people file their taxes electronically because it's convenient. Crooks typically get info because people email it to them.
Chances are, taxpayers will get an email message from what appears to be the IRS. Some of the fake email messages have the IRS logo. Taxpayers will send their info. Crooks will file a phony return.
"It's really surprising to me how many people don't know what's on their tax return," Hopp said.
Experts encourage people to file their returns as soon as possible, "so that people don't have a chance to file a false return and get your refund," Hopp said.
Thomas plans to file right away. She'll fill out a separate form that flags her account. That way, the IRS knows to use extra caution.
The IRS does not send email messages or try to contact taxpayers through social media. Filers need to make sure there's a secure internet connection.
- Taxpayers can always call the IRS to see if documents are legit.
- Before hiring a tax preparer, do research and get recommendations.
- Remember to always shred important documents.
- Tax returns should be kept for eight years.