Officials warn woman's tax fraud arrest is sign of a growing problem

TAMPA - A Tampa woman was arrested for 17 counts of identity theft and tax fraud.

Investigators claim Belinda Brooks stole her victims' social security numbers and cheated them out of anywhere between $1,000 and almost $10,000 in tax returns for 2008-2009.

"And it's a really serious problem," said attorney Jim Staack.

Staack filed suit against the United States of America three weeks ago. He represents several Bay Area tax fraud victims, one of them a victim two years in a row.

"Apparently you don't need very much to file a fraudulant return, other than the person's name, a social security number, and a good imagination," Staack said.

According to law enforcement, the internet has opened Pandora's Box of tax fraud. Social networking sites offer sensitive information and e-filing speeds up the criminal's ability to work.

"Really, the people can do very little," Staack said.

Josh Chafin says he hasn't filed his tax return, but the IRS just told him somebody else has.

"I feel violated," Chafin said. "I guess people don't want to go to work. They want to go to jail."

His friend, Nelson Clark, just picked up identity theft forms because he claims someone else filed his tax return too.

"Everywhere I turn to, there's a door. Boom, boom boom. What can I do?" Clark said.

Staack says his clients just get the run-around from the IRS.

Just like Robert Marshall, who tried to help Clark and Chafin, but says they just got sent home from Tampa's IRS office with a lot of paperwork and not a lot of help.

"But the people who stole our identity can get all the help they can," Marshall said.

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