Andrew Grim is a college student and a member of the Army National Guard who served a tour of duty in Iraq.
Grim was counting on $3,100 that he was expecting back from the Internal Revenue Service.
"I went on Turbo Tax and filed my return electronically and it was rejected four or five times," Grim said. "I kept on trying to submit it and they kept rejecting it, saying the Social Security number had already been used. And so, at this point, I knew there had to be some sort of problem."
Grim alerted the IRS.
"They told me they had already received a return with my name and Social Security number and I explained to them that it wasn't me. That I didn't submit it."
Tampa police officer Eddie Perez patrols in a section of the city where people's names and personal information are a commodity -- bought and sold every day.
"I've been to houses that barely have any food for their kids," Perez said. "No furniture. But they have a Jaguar sitting on 30-inch rims in the driveway."
The I-Team was with Perez on patrol when he came across evidence of suspects cashing in other people's tax returns. But he rarely makes arrests, even after finding evidence of tax fraud.
"Page after page, front and back. Names, socials and dates of birth," Perez said while looking through a notebook he found during a traffic stop.
According to the IRS, more than 250,000 fake returns were filed last year and $1.4 billion in refunds given out.
The head of the U.S. Secret Service in Tampa says the numbers of cases are overwhelming law enforcement.
"What I mean by epidemic is, I draw an analogy to the amount of money that is coming from our government to those who file fraudulently is becoming so rampant it is becoming extremely difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement to correct the problem," said John Joyce, the agent-in-charge of the local Secret Service office.
As for Andrew Grim, he says he immediately filed an identity theft affidavit and submitted other documents verifying his identity with the IRS. By the time the IRS processed the paperwork, however, he said a refund already had been sent out. Not to him, but it went to whoever fraudulently filed a return on his behalf.
"They said calling in and letting them know there was a problem is not enough and that you have to send in documentation," said Grim. "But they said it wasn't quick enough that they can't stop a payment waiting for documentation."
Grim suspects his information was stolen during a recent visit to a doctor’s office. He also says the IRS is telling him it will take eight to 12 weeks to review his claim.
Tonight at 11, the I-Team reveals what law enforcement is up against as local authorities try to get a grip on widespread tax return fraud in Tampa.
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