(WTVM) - Identity theft is one of the most frustrating crimes for victims.
A new type of fraud involves the theft of personal information, most commonly social security numbers, where criminals file false tax returns and claim the refund.
Many times people are unaware they have become a victim until they file their own taxes and are notified by the Internal Revenue Service that a return has already been filed in their name.
This is a major problem nationally and even here in east Alabama.
"We have had reports here of people saying they went to file their taxes and somebody has already filed under their social security number or it'll be they were supposed to receive a refund check, the IRS had mailed it and they haven't received it," explains Captain Tom Stofer of the Auburn Police Division.
So how do prevent yourself from becoming a victim?
Secure personal information in your home, check your credit report annually, and don't give a business your social security number just because they ask. Give it only when required.
Also, trust your instincts about your tax preparer. If they promise to secure larger returns than competitors, or offer "free money" without any paperwork, you might want to think twice.
"One of the things I like to share with people most often is that is something sounds good to be true, it is good to be true. Never give your information out to someone who has made contact with you," says Stofer.
If you suspect that your personal information has been stolen, contact your local IRS office immediately.
They have forms for you to fill out in order to minimize your losses and aide them in finding suspects who committed the fraud.