Identity Theft from 2012 Continues to Follow Harlingen Woman
HARLINGEN – A Harlingen woman said someone else has been using her identity for nearly a decade and now she can’t receive her income tax return.
Tanya Garcia was facing an unexpected expense after taking a trip to Mexico.
“I actually just got into a bad, bad car wreck in Coahuila. It got burnt, it exploded,” she said.
Garcia, now left without a car, was counting on her tax refund to get back on the road.
“Since 2012, we’ve been trying to fight this. FBI has gotten involved with this every year. I have to go get a pin, like I said, and every year it’s nonstop,” she said.
The issue started five years ago when Garcia went to file her income taxes.
“I did file my taxes in 2012 because I did work, but in 2012 there were more people working with my identity, my Social Security and all that,” Garcia said.
To make matters worse, she said she was never notified about the issue by anyone at the IRS.
“That’s why I always have to come to the process of having to go through this issue, but since 2012 to 2017, that’s quite a bit of time for them not to advise somebody and let them know what’s going on,” she said.
A study released this week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office surveyed the 2016 year of the IRS and showed Garcia was not the only taxpayer having issues with communication.
“It takes quite a time, you have to get a hold of them and sometimes it’s like if you get a hold of them, and they’re always so packed,” Garcia said.
Jessica Lucas-Judy, director of Strategic Issues for GAO, spoke about the study on the GAO Watchdog Report. She said the IRS made customer service improvements.
But they still need more improvement when it comes to handling the cases with identity theft victims.
“Overall, IRS was processing those kinds of cases faster. They reduced the time by about half between 2012 and 2016. They also created Identity Theft Victims’ Assistance Unit to help streamline the process and make it faster, make it more user friendly to the taxpayer,” she said.
Lucas-Judy detailed how much money was issued using fraudulent refunds.
“IRS has estimated that it paid out more than $3 billion in fraudulent refunds in 2014. One of the things that we looked at in our case file review was the process, or whether any refunds were being released before the case was closed,” she said.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to Irma Trevino, spokesperson for media relations with the IRS, and asked what improvements have been made at local offices.
We are waiting for them to get back to us.
“I’m just trying to get a vehicle, get myself to work and back and have a little bit more of my son,” Garcia said.
She added she hopes this year will be different than before.
The IRS offered some tips for citizens to keep in mind during the tax season to keep them protected against possible identity theft.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN, only if it is required. Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the internet, unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
- If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you file a report with the police and file a complaint with the FTC. You can do that by calling 877-438-4338 or heading to their website.