Tax identity theft on the rise

After 18 months of unemployment and current employment at a temp job, Tracey Cochran has been counting on her $2,400 IRS refund check. But what she got was a notice that someone else had filed a tax return in her name – with the intent of trying to intercept her money.

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She went into a panic after learning about the scam. But she’s not alone.

The Scripps Howard news service investigated 1.4 million complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and found tax identity theft has more than tripled in the last five years.

"From the criminal's perspective, a little bit of money from a great number of people, starts to add up," said Steven Toporoff, an FTC attorney.

There are two versions of the scam: In the first, thieves offer to do other people’s taxes for free. Then, they file fraudulent returns with Uncle Sam and hijack the funds for themselves. One Massachusetts man pleaded guilty to stealing $200,000 that way.

In the second scam, con artists target not just you but your kids too. They steal childrens social security numbers and then list them as dependents to score a bigger refund.

Greg Sartin said his daughter Taylor has been used as a dependent on other people’s tax returns six times. When he tries to claim her himself, the IRS rejects his return.

Now, he’s worried about Taylor’s financial future.

“When she turns 18, is she going to have items on her credit reports that are going to make it difficult for her?" he asked.

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