Reporting Al Sunshine
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Identity theft has become so prevalent in South Florida that local Internal Revenue Service offices have been forced to limit how many customers can enter their offices earlier this week.
Sunrise resident Vanessa Dowe spent time off from work to go to the IRS’ Plantation customer service center after finding out her tax ID was ripped off and her tax refund was stolen.
“I filed my taxes just yesterday actually and just got a notice somebody else had used my I-D and got my Tax Refund. I started crying,” Dowe explained.
South Florida is considered one of the identity theft capitals of the country. So when tax season starts, it’s not unexpected to start hearing about tax refund scams. But it’s looking like this may be a banner year for the problem.
Doral Police supervisor Fatima Nunez also found out her tax identity and refund were stolen. After spending hours at Miami’s IRS office, she thinks the agency just can’t handle the growing number of new cases.
“Honestly, I don’t believe they have enough people,” the veteran investigator said. “It took me over 3 hours personally for waiting time at the downtown office and there were 150 people there for the same problem, identity theft, and once you go there and get all the paperwork, it’s a 90-day investigation period.”
Doral Police Chief Ricardo Gomez said he’s seen a big increase in tax-related identity theft complaints. He thinks the problem is much worse than last year. He said the identity thieves are operating in sophisticated groups and are not just kids stealing ID’s.
Doral detectives are investigating a recent robbery where the suspects were found with a dozen local tax returns and think they may be part of a very well organized ring.
“People need to be very careful about their tax forms, social security number and personal financial information to avoid becoming a victim in the first place,” Chief Gomez warned.
The IRS said it has limited resources to investigate identity thefts and apologizes to victims for any long delays.
“We can only handle so many people, we do not have unlimited resources,” said IRS spokesman Mike Dobzinski. “We’re doing the best we can. Some people have had to wait in line and we apologize for that.”
Miami has been identified as one of the nine national hotspots for the federal government’s new inter-agency task force on tax-related identity theft. Sixteen people were recently arrested statewide as part of a crackdown on tax refund fraud.
The IRS said taxpayers who believe their refunds may have been stolen need to contact the agency as soon as possible.
You can contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490 or at www.irs.gov.
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