Tax identity theft problem growing nationwide

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The idea of Tax Day is bad enough, but for some victims, it's just the beginning of an identity theft nightmare.

It's one that came true for Takoma Park resident Debby Leopold, who is one of hundreds of thousands who submitted their tax return, only to have it rejected because someone else had already filed in their name and taken their money.

The scheme is one that has been replayed over and over across the country - and you don't need much to do it.

"Their full name, date of birth and Social Security number - that's all the information you really need to commit identity theft," John Brecyault of the National Consumer League said.

It also happened to the Agin family; after their daughter died of a brain tumor, someone claimed her as a dependent.

"It's bad enough losing your child," Jonathan Agin said. "To have somebody steal their identity, the last remaining vestige of your's horrible."

The huge problem continues to grow. In 2011, the IRS paid $1.4 billion in fake tax refunds, six times more than in 2012. That could, unfortunately, be just the beginning.

In response, the IRS has installed computer filters to flag suspicious returns, something that didn't work for the Agins or for Leopold.

Authorities say that if identity theft happens to you, you'll be asked to fill out a theft affidavit and provide a copy of your birth certificate and other evidence of your identity. Your return will then be held by the IRS until the matter is sorted out.