Colleen Scharber lost her $1,300 tax refund to an identity thief. The IRS says it's working to return stolen refunds within six months, but this consumer said she waited close to a year.
In some cases it takes months, even years, to clear up identity theft issues for people. Which is why Eric Olsen with Hillsborough County Consumer Protection preaches prevention. Here is his advice.
#1 File your tax return early.
That way you beat the bad guys to the IRS.
#2 Check your credit report for suspicious activity.
It might alert you that someone out there has your personal information. You can check each of you 3 credit reports for free once per year. That should be done routinely.
#3 Beef up your computer's anti virus.
If you already have anti-virus software, be sure to update it. It's much easier to take preventative measures on the front end than to restore your credit and chase your tax refund after the fact.