WASHINGTON DC (WUSA) -- Taxpayers could be in for a big surprise when they file their 2011 returns. Con artists are using stolen social security numbers to file bogus tax returns and illegally walking away with the refunds.
24 percent of ID theft complaints to the Federal Trade Commission last year related to stolen Social Security numbers used to fraudulently file for tax refunds or apply for jobs, up 8 percent.
Adam Levin, former Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and chairman and co-founder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911, says the thieves are using sophisticated means to steal personal data. Levin says it's done "through social networking or a breach or a personal compromise. They use that personal information to recreate you."
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your W-2s starts with your own mailbox. "You really need to get to your mailbox as quickly as possible so someone else doesn't get it first, or arrange with someone you trust to get your mail, or get a locking mailbox," says Levin.
If you think your refund was stolen, call the IRS right away. The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is your first stop. They will ask you to fill out an ID theft affidavit. You'll need to prove you really are "you" with W-2 forms, previous tax returns and photo ID.
Written by Jessica Doyle
9NEWS Now & wusa9.com