HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla - W-2 forms should be showing up in mailboxes across the bay area within the next few days, prompting police to issue a warning about identity theft and how it could defraud you out of your return.
In other words, they want you to avoid what Gary Deavers is experiencing.
"It is a total headache," said Deavers outside of his St. Petersburg home Tuesday.
Deavers filed his 2011 tax returns only to be told by the Internal Revenue Service that an impostor already filed in his name.
He was supposed to get $18,000, but is still battling red tape to get his hands on the money.
"I'm at a standstill right now on my taxes, because you call the IRS and you are just waiting," he explained.
A routine traffic stop by Tampa Police on February 14, 2012, revealed Deavers' identity had been stolen.
In the back of a car driven by James Edward McCarr, now 24, was an application for credit Deavers filled out at a Pinellas Park furniture store. Someone at the furniture store copied his credit application. There were also two other credit applications in the car and hundreds of social security numbers.
Tampa Police told ABC Action News they come across similar scenarios on a daily basis.
"It is a constant flow," said Sgt. Pat Kennedy, with the Tampa PD. "We are catching people on a regular basis with ledgers in their cars, on their person and in their houses."
Kennedy referred to identity theft as "an epidemic" in the Bay area.
"Tampa is an active area and has been targeted by the amount of fraud happening in the county," Kennedy explained.
With tax season kicking off in just days, police are warning residents to watch out because identity thieves are already at work--just like in Deavers' case.
"The guy filed in Texas, said he lived in Texas. I don't live in Texas. I have never lived there and he said he was single and I am not," Deavers said.
Deavers' wife, Victoria, is a military contractor who currently works in Afghanistan. Since they file joint taxes, she also has to deal with the much-needed missing dollars.
In the weeks prior to filing their 2011 taxes, the couple gutted their kitchen and intended to use their refund money to buy the necessary building materials and workers in order to remodel.
Without the money, their kitchen is in shambles. Deavers says his he built a makeshift kitchen with a toaster oven in his backyard.
Legally blind, Deavers is now forced to fix his kitchen up on his own while he awaits his wife's return.
Sgt. Kennedy offers the following tips to avoid tax return fraud:
- File taxes early
- Frequently monitor your credit
- Avoid giving information like social security number, date of birth and your address to businesses, doctor's offices or over the internet