Many identity theft victims are forced to wait months to claim their tax returns
(KUTV) When Julianne McLaughlin's mom and dad filed their taxes, they didn't get their return. Instead, they got a letter in the mail demanding the elderly couple verify their identity.
"I was like, 'Why does their identity need to be verified? They've been filing taxes for 60 to 70 years,’" Julianne said.
The family figured it was some kind of random audit, so they sent in the required paperwork.
When that didn’t work, they sent it in again – but they still couldn’t get the IRS to send a check.
Julianne also made repeated calls to the IRS hotline, but says she couldn’t ever get anyone to answer.
They finally went to their local IRS office where they learned, seven months after first getting the letter, someone had stolen the couple's social security numbers and filed a tax return in their name.
"I was really upset," Julianne said.
Bentley professor Steve Weisman, who's written several books on the topic, says the IRS is notoriously slow to inform taxpayers they're at risk.
"It's such a bureaucratic nightmare that they don't let you know as soon as possible: you're a victim. We need to fight this," he said.
Government reports show that, during the busy filing season, it can take an average of 9 months to resolve identity theft issues. And, Get Gephardt found that in the past three years, the IRS has investigated, busted and sent to jail nearly 1953 people who used somebody else's identity to steal their tax return, including a guy here in Utah, just this past week.
The IRS tells CBS News it's working to resolve these cases faster.
As for Julianne, her mom finally received her refund check in November. Julianne says she is still worried about the potential damage done during the months she didn't know her mom's identity was in the hands of a thief.
"I would say a 10 out of 10 in terms of bureaucracy," she said.
Experts say when tax filing season comes around, do your taxes right away. That will increase your chances of beating identity thieves to the punch.