News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Feb. 17, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Many taxpayers are in for a nasty surprise when they go to file their taxes.
The IRS says identity theft on tax returns is at epidemic proportions. Augusta-Richmond County deputies are already investigating several cases of identity fraud involving tax returns.
"With all the technology out there now, people are thinking of ways to get a hold of someone else's identity and use it," said Investigator Clinton Faison. "It's pretty bad, I mean you got to watch it."
Chantel Boner, 19, found out she was victimized by this crime when she went to file her taxes online in January.
"All I felt was anger," she said.
The first-time tax filer realized something was wrong when she a message came back to her from the IRS stating, "this person has already been claimed for the 2011 tax year."
The IRS confirmed to her in person someone had used her Social Security number to file under her name.
"I thought it couldn't happen to me, but it can happen to anybody," the teen said.
Identity theft cases involving taxes are growing by the number. Last month, investigators with the IRS arrested 105 people in 23 states for potential theft of thousands of identities and taxpayer refunds. Some of those arrests took place in Georgia.
Boner says she believes her identity was stolen when she lost her wallet a few months ago. However, investigators say it doesn't take losing a document for someone to steal your identity.
"People who pay bills online or giving their information over the telephone," Faison said.
Here are some ways for you to protect yourself from identity theft and tax fraud:
-Shred all personal documents.
-Never give our personal information to strangers over phone or through email.
-Don't carry your Social Security card with you.
-Don't provide personal information through an unsecured website.
If you do find out someone filed under your name when you submit your taxes, then immediately file a report with your local Sheriff's Office and contact the IRS.