SAN ANTONIO – Tax season is here, and so are the imposters who are looking to steal your refund.
Kristyn Ryan, of Bandera, knows about imposters firsthand. When she and her husband filed their 2015 tax return last March, they expected their refund within weeks.
"I waited months and months," Ryan said.
In July, she received a startling letter from the IRS, informing her that she and her husband had filed two tax returns. When Ryan finally got the IRS on the phone, the news got worse.
"He said, 'We paid you in February — $8,000 and some change,'" Ryan said the IRS told her.
Somebody had faked the couple's tax return, stealing their identities and their refund. The crook used their personal information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, employers and even the kids.
"It's pretty brazen that somebody would do this," Ryan said.
It's brazen and potentially lucrative.
Last year, the IRS said it foiled $1.1 billion dollars in ID theft tax fraud by catching 171,000 phony returns.
The crackdown continues. This year, the IRS is purposely delaying refunds that involve the earned income tax credit and child tax credit because scammers are known to target those credits.
"This is peak season for identity thieves," said Miguel Segura, with the Better Business Bureau. "Some of the best practices to lessen that chance (are) to file your tax return early."
To reduce your risk, experts also advise guarding your personal information, keeping your computer clean and picking a reputable tax preparer.
Ryan finally got her tax refund six months later than originally anticipated, after the IRS investigated.