ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - We've heard the reports about how Florida leads the nation in cases of identity theft. Police and federal agents are investigating everything from income tax fraud to stealing unemployment benefits.
It's a crisis that creates hardship for thousands of families, including many in Tampa.
Rudolph Sweet hopes to finish a business degree at St. Petersburg College. But his dream has turned into a nightmare. "I felt like I was violated. I felt like how could this happen to me?"
Sweet lost his job and decided to go back to school. Money was tight and he needed a student loan to pay for his education. But, he couldn't get it approved.
Sweet said, "I went to the IRS to pull up my tax and wage transcript so that I could complete my federal student application and unbeknownst to me, someone else had stolen my identity and filed taxes."
According to IRS documents, someone from Miami filed for around $14,000 in unemployment compensation in Sweet's name. He believes the ID thief tried to collect even more. Sweet said, "This person had a spouse they claimed was blind."
Sweet filed a report with St. Petersburg Police and they are sending the information to the federal government. Police spokesperson Mike Puetz said, "They'll begin the investigation on their end. Start looking at their records and try to identify the person that's responsible for this. I will tell you that's usually not a very successful proposition."
Sweet says that proposition will be worth the wait. Sweet said, "I do have hope to go to school. That's why I attend school and that gives me inspiration to carry on."
Officials at St. Petersburg college say they're working with Sweet, so he can go back to school.
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