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TROUBLESHOOTERS: Tax identity theft


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- In tonight's Troubleshooters report, a new twist on identity theft. Year after year, a Wilmington woman has to spend hours on the phone and go through lengthy delays getting her tax refund from the IRS. That's because someone stole her Social Security Number. They use it to file fraudulent tax returns and steal her refund.

It all started in 2000, when Brooke Hooks's wallet was stolen while she was on vacation in Florida. The thieves got her Social Security Number and her birthdate and used her information to file a fraudulent tax return. Hooks did not know there was a problem until her tax refund didn't come back.

"They told me that I had already received a refund, and I told the IRS that that was false," Hooks said. "And when we started investigating further, we realized there was a duplicate filing, and these people in Florida had filed using my Social and my birthdate to file a return, and they received over $3,000 that year."

But Hooks didn't see a dime of her return for two years while the IRS verified her identity.

"They're asking me to send all this information to prove who I am," she said. "I have to send copies of my Social Security card, my driver's license, I have to write a theft affidavit each time to say this is happening and please help me fix it."

So far, no luck. Hooks just got word that her and her husband's $10,000 2009 return is being held by the IRS. It's money they were counting on to help pay for a move across the state later this month.

Adding to the madness, the people who got her money are filing returns using a misspelled version of her maiden name, and that's not causing the thieves any problems. The authorities have information that could help them track down the con artists, but won't go after them.

"I've called the fraud department of the IRS, who is supposed to be our advocate, and nobody seems to be able to help me," Hooks said. "They say I'm not experiencing a large enough loss for this to be considered or for anyone to try and find these people who are using my Social."

The good news is the government is aware of the problem. The bad news there are a lot of victims, the problem has grown exponentially in recent years, and it's unclear how long it will take to fix the system. Experts estimate that 1.2 million returns filed in 2007 were filed by people using someone else's Social Security number. That adds up to tens of millions of your tax dollars paid out to crooks.

Even Rep. Mike McIntyre's office, which has been trying to help Hooks, cannot get a call back from the IRS.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, whose sole mission is to protect our tax system from waste, fraud and abuse has been sounding the alarm for at least two years, but the IRS has been slow to respond.

While officials won't specify what threshold a criminal has to reach before the IRS will go after them, in recent years, only about 50 cases of tax identity theft were recommended for prosecution nationwide. Auditors are concerned there is no real deterrent to keep this problem from spreading.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


This same thing has happened

This same thing has happened to myself & fiance the last 3 out of 4 years. Someone uses his social security number and files taxes with it. Each year, we have received our refund, until this year. We filed in February and still havent received it. I have done the same steps this lady has talked about, copies of everything and the affidavit, police report, calling the credit companies, ect. The past years this has happened the IRS would not help us at all, this year they have told us about their hotline for id theft. Trust me, I call once or twice a week and I will keep calling once or twice or three times a week until they settle ours and send our refund to us. It is not right and I'm sure with all the information they receive from the RIGHT PEOPLE should be enough to say "okay, this is the correct person and this person is the bad person". We are suppose to be receiving a letter by the end of this month with a id theft investigator listed on it with a number to reach him/her. Unitl I see it, I will keep calling and bugging them until this is fixed.

Social Security Identity Theft and the IRS

please google Robert Guenterberg. 2 illegal Hispanics used their own names and his SSN for over 13 years. One of them filed income tax returns twice since 1996 using Robert's SSN and received federal refunds. If someone is using your SSN for employment chances are they are also using it to obtain credit. The IRS told us in a letter that it is not an American's taxpayer right to be inform by the IRS if someone else is using THEIR SSN. I did obtain the IRS earning records of these 2 illegal aliens. The IRS knows who is using your SSN illegally. They code their Master files with an "invalid' SSN on the earning records of the identity theft. These 2 illegals were able to buy homes, vehicles, obtain credit cards, driver's licenses and develop their own credit reports using their own names and Robert's SSN. So if you can't get a Ford Motor credit loan maybe it's because someone else already established credit with YOUR SSN.

Tax Identity Theft

Please! Most of those workers are like the workers at the Medicare offices. Most are getting paid about 6.00 per hour and don't care about anything, except getting their paychecks and going home. There is a couple in Beulaville, NC that stole about 1800 patient files out of a diabetic supply shop. They went to court and told, under oath, "that the Attorney General's office told them to take all of these files", (which include patient's names, addresses, copies of Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance cards).When they were told to release these files, by a US Federal Marshall, they turned over 3 boxes. The attorney general's Office, Medicare, Trust Solutions, Sheriff's Dept, etc, were called. The owner was told to get a lawyer to get her stuff back. Every body wants to make a big deal out of Identity Theft, but if the authorities would prosecute just a few of these criminals, to the fullest extent of the law, some of these little theives would think twice, before they tried it.

It would be a good idea to

It would be a good idea to make sure that you owe the government at the end of each year so that there's nothing to be stolen.

Since the IRS sends her

Since the IRS sends her refund to an idenity thief, drop all your deductions, owe a big amount at the end of the year and let the thief pay. Kind of a reverse scam.


they should turn to Senator Burr who has an office for just such issues in Wilmington.

Generally speaking, Senators carry more pull than Congressmen unless the Congressman is named Pelosi.

Brooke Hook

#1-NEVER, EVER carry around your social security card. Keep it in a safe, locked place only taking it out when needed.
#2-Change your withholding allowances so that you are getting more money in your paycheck and not using the government as a savings account. Put the extra money in your own bank and collect some interest on it (which the government doesn't do!)
#3-Freeze your credit with all 3 credit reporting agencies. It's free to do in NC and it's easy!

Good luck! I hope you are able to get your money back!