(NEW YORK) — If you were to see a letter in the mail from the Internal Revenue Service, you would probably assume there’s an issue with your taxes or you’ve been audited. But for many Americans, this is actually how they first find out that their identity has been stolen.
“Very often, people first learn of an identity theft issue because of something involving their tax return or their refund,” says Eric Smith with the IRS. He says the agency has a dedicated team that only deals with ID theft.
Even if the issue gets resolved, it could be a while before you see your refund, tax expert Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance points out.
“The IRS will not even see your W-2 form until long after it has sent you your refund. It doesn’t get that from Social Security until the summertime sometime. So they sort of have got to guess that you’re being honest with them,” he tells ABC News Radio.
“So if people are sending in fake W-2’s, the IRS computers don’t have a chance to check them until later, so they’ve got to be really careful. And if somebody else gets your refund before you do, it can take a year to get things straightened out,” McCormally continues.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft, you should contact the IRS, the Federal Trade Commission and your local police.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
John Newsome and Anne Woolsey, CNN