National tax fraud case surfaces in Lowcountry

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A national tax fraud scam that spans almost half the country and targets individuals identities and tax refund money may have penetrated into the Lowcountry.

"I was worried about the rest of my family," says Donald Clark. "Worried their social security numbers were are stolen."

On January 31, Clark filed his tax return online with a free service provider. But just as fast as his tax return was submitted, it was returned.

"I got an email stating that the IRS rejected it," says Clark, who double check his form and submitted it again with the same outcome. Clarks says he received an error message saying "the primary social security number was already used."

After making sure the error wasn't on his end, Clark realized the unimaginable. His social security number was stolen and a tax return was filed under his name that same day more than 500 miles away in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

According to statistics released by the Internal Revenue Service at the end of January 2012, Clark isn't alone. The IRS says it's targeted 105 people in 23 states in a massive national crack down and found thousands of stolen identities and tax refund frauds along the way.

"That is a big scam," says book keeping and tax service provider Deborah Fields. "Whatever name you have on your social security card and your social security number are the two most precious things you own right now."

Fields says your social is so precious she doesn't even trust it to a free online tax service.

"If you don't want to pay someone to do your taxes there are companies that do offer free services," says Fields. "I'd say go to them or do it yourself. But try not to use that free file because I don't think it's safe."

Fields says the free filing system doesn't double check whether the social security number and name on the report match up like software that are available to buy.

Now Clark, who thought he was getting a jump by filing early, and his family are set back.

"We were actually going to be moving this month and we were going to use that money to help us move and to pay off some debt and that money's not there," says Clark.

According to the identity theft victim, the IRS told him the money from his refund won't be there until November.

The investigation into how Clark's social security number still hasn't begun. Clark says he started filing his taxes with TurboTax's free online version, saved his progress and returned to complete it less than 12 hours later.

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