PORTLAND, Ore. - A college student waiting for her tax refund is now fighting to protect her identity after someone else started using her Social Security number.
There is a wide range of what could be happening, however. Someone could be starting to take over her identity or it could simply be a clerical error – someone entering the wrong number: a mistake of fat fingers.
Julia Barclay is just one term away from graduating from Portland State University. She's counting on her federal and state tax refunds worth over $900 combined to pay for her celebratory trip. But when she tried to file her taxes electronically two days ago, her sense of security was rocked.
"I filed them, sent them in, thought it was great … and then the next day I got an email saying they were rejected, and I thought, 'ah what's wrong with this?' I thought it was mistake," she said.
Turbo Tax let her know someone else already used her Social Security number to file his or her own tax return. A message said it was because her number was on a "previously accepted electronic return," meaning someone else used her number.
The IRS told her to fill out an ID-theft form.
According to the IRS, people stealing Social Security numbers to file tax returns is the fastest growing kind of fraud it sees.
"The IRS over the last three years has increased our enforcement operation in that four-fold," said IRS special agent Ken Hines. "We've gone from ranging from 200 and something investigations to over 800 now."
KATU News tried to find out who used Barclay's number by running it through a national consumer database it uses in its investigative reporting.
The search came back "no records found."
That's a good sign that Barclay's Social Security is not being used fraudulently to a high degree.
But late Monday afternoon it looked more and more like someone took her identity and it's not just a clerical error. While redoing her taxes, she also discovered someone changed her email address.
The IRS has steps to follow if this happens to you on its Identity Protection webpage.
If you have a story for our On Your Side Investigators, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.