Watching your money: Protecting yourself against tax ID theft



ORLANDO, Fla. - Some people have waited months to get their refund checks from the IRS after someone else stole their identities and claimed their money.

One central Florida woman not only had her identity stolen; even after the identity theft was discovered, the government claimed the victim still owed thousands of dollars.

Hunter, 2, and his brother Riley, 4, depend on their mom, Christine Seymour, and she relies on the IRS for her refund check.

"When you live paycheck to paycheck, you look forward to that little break, that little breather," Seymour told Channel 9's Jorge Estevez.

But last year, Seymour found out she was the victim of ID theft.

"It was beyond frustrating," said Seymour, who soon found out it would be 10 months before she would get her $7,000 refund check.

"By the time I got my check, I was two months behind on my rent. I had to catch up on all the bills, and me and my kids had gone without all year. We didn't have that extra that everybody counts on," said Seymour.

Then, the unthinkable happened to her family: the IRS sent Seymour a notice last week stating she owed the government money, and that the agency had made a mistake by giving her the refund at all.

"They want my entire refund back because, apparently, I am a liar," said Seymour.

Estevez learned through reading the letter that the IRS didn't believe Seymour had children and therefore she could not claim them as dependents. Also, the IRS added penalties and interest, requiring that Seymour pay back over $8,600.

"I am hearing of more issues as far as identity theft," said Ron Tamayo, a certified financial planner in Maitland.

Tamayo said the mix-up is most likely a result of the ID theft that still hasn't been completely cleared up.

"The IRS is looking at tax returns and looking at Social Security numbers that have already been claimed on a another tax return," Tamayo said.

Regardless of the reason, Seymour has to battle the IRS once again to keep her money.

"That is my only salvation, to get myself out of my financial hole and now it is like, what's next, just waiting for what's next," said Seymour.

In order to protect yourself from any penalties and fees while a mix-up is resolved, you must always contact the IRS right away and provide all the paperwork the agency requests.

The Tax Payer Advocate Service, an independent branch of the IRS, is designed to help individuals resolve their claims with the IRS.