IRS uses new strategy in fight against fraud

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

WFTV's Jorge Estevez has learned the Internal Revenue Service is using a new strategy to ensure fraudsters don't illegally collect your tax refunds.

The system should be familiar to anyone who has an ATM card and a PIN.

And it comes as a relief to people like Central Florida's Nasta Echeverria, who instead of getting a refund last year received paperwork from the IRS stating, "We are sending you this letter because another individual filed a tax return for the tax year shown above with your social security number."

Echeverria told Estevez, "They called me and said, 'We can't give you your money because someone filed with your Social,' and I am like that is impossible because I just filed with my Social."

She was one of tens of thousands who in 2012 became victims of identity theft. And Echeverria eventually had to prove who she said she was in order to get her refund.

Estevez asked how desperately she needed the money.

"I needed it," Echeverria explained. "I was unemployed. I was about to lose my car and I was about to lose my apartment."

To prevent people from becoming victims again, the IRS is giving out PINs. They're similar to the ones bank customers use for their debit cards. People will simply use their assigned PINs when filing their taxes.

Estevez learned the IRS started the program in 2011 and handed out 250,000 PINs, but in 2012 that number grew to 600,000. That means the number of victims more than doubled from one year to the next.

Echeverria will take extra care in the future, but she'll also have more confidence in the refund system with the PIN program in place.

Now she hopes the only letter she'll be opening from the IRS this year will be her refund check.

"It doesn't make you feel vulnerable that it is going to happen again," she said.

LINK: IRS Identity Protection