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Tax fraud a potential problem for last minute filers

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Last minute filers may have more to worry about than meeting Tuesday’s tax deadline. Many people are finding out they are victims of tax fraud and that someone has already filed for them!

This is a growing problem in Southwest Florida and hard to prevent. But officials with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office say there are steps you can take to get your money back.

Dana Matthews is just 23-years-old. She’s been busy starting up her new jewelry line, Gemma Virch.

Like many, the young entrepreneur just got around to filing her taxes online this weekend – days before the deadline.

That’s when she found out someone beat her to the punch.

“It was returned from IRS saying that it would not go through. So that’s when the warning bells went off,” she said.

Someone in Arizona filed for thousands worth of her tax return – money she could have used to help kick start her new business is now gone.

“It’s stressful,” she said.

And Matthews isn’t alone.

Officials with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office say that 442 tax fraud reports have been filed in Collier this year alone and 90 of those were in the past two days.

Most victims haven’t seen a dime of their tax refund yet and won’t for a while.

“It’s a hassle,” said Paul Stepler, CPA.

If you’ve been a victim of tax fraud, you will get your money back – it just takes time, patience and a pile of paperwork.

“Eventually, they make it right; it just takes a year,” Stepler said.

To get your money, you need to first report fraud to local authorities.

Then, contact the IRS Protection Unit so they can freeze your account and start their investigation.

You should also call the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft hotline and the Social Security Administration to issue a fraud alert.

Also, check your credit to make sure your tax refund is the only money thieves stole.

If the IRS fails to catch the suspect, it costs more than just the victim. Taxpayers pay the price too, since money used to eventually reimburse victims like mattes comes out of the Treasury.

Matthews has already contacted authorities and followed the right steps towards getting her money back. She says she’s hoping the system will work – eventually.

If you are a victim of tax fraud, contact local authorities and all of the following agencies:

– IRS Identity Protection Unit: 1-800-908-4490.

Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Hotline: 1-877-438-4338

Social Security Administration: 1-800-772-1213

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