San Diego Equifax data breach victim falls victim to tax return fraud

SAN MARCOS, Calif. (KGTV) - Months after the massive Equifax data breach, a North County couple got some heart-dropping news from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).    

Jennifer, who asked 10News not to identify her full name, says her accountant was just about to e-file her taxes when she got the letter from the IRS.

"It said we needed to verify that we filed, and if we had not filed, we had to call them immediately to tell them we hadn't filed," said Jennifer.

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In short, someone had already filed in her name, raising the suspicions of IRS employees.    

"You feel violated. It's scary," said Jennifer.

Jennifer spent an hour on the phone with IRS caseworkers, who told her the red flags were immediate.

"The numbers for the deductions were off, but also the final number on the refund, which must have been way off," said Jennifer.

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The fraudulent tax filing comes almost seven months after the wide-ranging breach at the credit reporting company Equifax.

"We immediately and proactively froze our credit and then got letters saying both me and my husband had both been compromised," said Jennifer.

While they have credit monitoring and froze their credit, that doesn't protect them from fraud, which is a form of identity theft. Jennifer's accountant told her she wasn't the only one getting these letters from the IRS.

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"He's seeing a huge uptick in these letters, this year," said Jennifer.

Jennifer says her fraud was caught early enough that everything can be cleared up within two months. Now she's bracing for what's next.

"You're so vulnerable and your information is out there," said Jennifer.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the best way to protect yourself is to file your returns as early as possible. If you're mailing returns, mail them directly from the post office. And if filing electronically, use a secure network.

"Tax time presents a perfect storm for scammers, from tax identity theft to imposter scams, consumers must stay vigilant and prepared. Remember to go to the source of truth when you are contacted by anyone purporting to be from the IRS or other government entity," said Eva Velasquez, President of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

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