Identity thieves targeting tax filers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tax filing season is prime season for thieves too. In 2013, the IRS paid out nearly $6 billion in fraudulent refunds. That's what happened to one Fresno man.

Fresno acupuncturist John Oh is busy -- working and going to school full time. So when it came time to do his taxes, he filed through TurboTax, like he does every year. Then he tried to track down his refund through the IRS.

"They told me to contact them because something was wrong, and I guess I had to confirm my identity because in our system there are two files; that's when the red flag came up," said Oh.

"Someone was trying to get your refund," an Action News reporter said.

"Exactly," said Oh.

His identity was stolen, and he wasn't the only one. Last month, TurboTax suspended electronic filing of state returns after there was a spike in reports of fraud. After investigating, its parent company Intuit said that it had not been breached itself.

It was little consolation to Oh, who's spent hours on the phone and has yet to see his nearly $2,000 refund.

"I was like 'oh no, that's not gonna be me,' but I guess it just happened. I never would of thought in my life that it would happen," said Oh.

The Better Business Bureau has been fielding dozens of complaints related to tax fraud.

"Everybody has to file taxes, so there are so many victims, and most people don't know what to watch out for," said Cindy Dudley with the BBB.

The most common scheme: con artists demanding money, pretending to be with the IRS.

"If someone calls you and tells you that they need a credit card or debit card because you owe taxes, that's a big red flag," said Dudley.

Dudley says the IRS will never use unsolicited calls, texts or emails to discuss your personal tax issue.

In addition to contacting the IRS, victims of tax-related identity theft should:

- File a report with local police
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your account

TurboTax said it will prepare taxes for affected customers for free, and provide identity protection services and free credit monitoring.

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