Georgia woman says scammer stole her $4,300 tax refund

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'A scammer stole my tax refund'CUTHBERT, Ga. — Pamela Knighton, a 51-year-old social worker from Cuthbert, Ga. who earns less than $25,000 a year, had been really looking forward to her $4,300 tax refund last year.

But when she filed her taxes last February, her return was rejected. An IRS agent told her that someone had already filed a tax return in her name and the refund had been deposited into a bank account in Minnesota — a state Knighton has never even visited.

The agency promised to launch an investigation into her missing refund, but told her it would take at least six months. (The IRS says the average investigation takes between four and four-and-a-half months, but could last longer based on the complexity of the case.)

She wanted the money back sooner so she started her own investigation, calling the bank in Minnesota and reporting the fraud to her local police department.

“In between being busy at work I would use lunch as an excuse to try to find out what was going on,” said Knighton.

She didn’t turn up any leads, however, so she was forced to sit tight.

Worried that the scammer had taken mail from her mailbox to steal her information, she opened a post office box. She also notified her bank, bought identity theft protection that alerts her of any suspicious activity on her credit report, and started watching the activity on her checking account like a hawk.

More than six months later, Knighton received her refund. But the IRS wouldn’t tell her whether the identity thief was caught — the agency says it won’t disclose the information for privacy reasons. So now she worries that the thief is still out there and could use her information again — whether it’s to open a credit card or bank account in her name, or drain her checking account.

Any of these scenarios would be devastating to her finances.

“I’m one of the working poor and don’t have a lot of money — I work for a social service agency that doesn’t pay that much, I’m still trying to buy my own home and I’m always running low on my [bank] account,” said Knighton.

Plus, she worries that the thief will ruin the nearly perfect credit score she’s worked so hard to attain.

“It has been very stressful — I’ve stayed up plenty of nights over this,” said Knighton, who has been getting advice from nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center about how to protect her identity going forward.

Identity theft is a growing problem for both taxpayers and the IRS, which is struggling to keep up with record levels of fraud with a constantly shrinking budget. The IRS has launched 295 investigations into tax-related identity theft so far this filing season. Last year, the number of identity theft investigations surged to 1,492 — up 66% from 2012 and more than 400% from 2011.

“We know identity theft is a frustrating process for victims,” an IRS spokeswoman said. “Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS.”

10 comments

  • Hobbes

    Curious how someone making less that $25K could possibly get a “refund” of $4300 on her federal taxes. Here effective tax rate is probably near zero. Worst case scenario, her fed tax liability would be about $1100. Unless she voluntarily overpaid (kind of an odd savings plan), it’s hard to imagine such a refund. $4300 in tax credits (ACTC, etc.), maybe, but that’s not really a “refund.” I know the government calls it that for political reasons, but you can’t refund what you never paid.

  • Hookah

    SHEEP SHEEP SHEEP!!!! Another way the government is trying to scam you! Someone who makes 25K a year and lives paycheck to paycheck is not getting a 4300 refund! Believe what you want, but this is a BS story if I ever read one before…Just a way for people to look into something else to complain about or review while they rip you a new one in another area that your not paying attention to because your to focused on a nonsense story like this. Watch your backs and finances folks…UNCLE SAM AND THE GOVERNMENT WILL STEAL YOUR MONEY EVEN IF ITS YOUR LAST DOLLAR!

  • wowthat'snotright

    My thoughts exactly! :/ I know someone who earned about $50,000 last year, and PAID almost $6000 in fed. taxes… they kept that much! Not much point in working hard, looks like. And for myself, my husband and I earned about $27,000 last year and we owe the fed govt. $31 more dollars on top of what we paid. So why was this lady getting such a large “refund”?

  • Richard

    I am with you people on this, something just smells fishy about getting that much back. I am married with 3 kids and I make $60k a year. I still only got $4500 back from taxes.
    While the year before that I had to file an amended return because someone else claimed my children on their taxes. That only got resolved in December and I have yet to hear about what happened to the people involved.

  • Ken Baker

    The refund amount sounds about right. I never get one, but I know people in that income range who do.

    • wowthat'snotright

      Are the people you know 51 years old? I’m assuming she doesn’t have children young enough to get the earned income tax credit… she may have, though.

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