Could thieves have stolen your tax refund?

If you're working on your income taxes, I've got a warning for you.

Thieves may have already filed them, taken your refund and you won't know it until you try to file yourself.

Brian Watson says it's a "huge" problem.

He's a special agent in the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.

"They may not physically hurt you or mug you to get the money. You're going through the stress," he says.

He reads through a list of people caught by the IRS for stealing refunds.

The worst case involved a person taking $2.2 million in stolen tax money.

On April 8, an Avondale woman goes on trial for tax fraud.

The IRS accuses her of taking thousands in refunds meant for Valley people.

Watson says with a Social Security number and name, thieves can do real damage.

"Sometimes it's the computer sites you go to clicking on links... It could happen by a breach at a store where someone hacks in," he says.

Updating anti-virus software on computers and changing passwords often can help protect you.

Watson says the IRS is adding new filters all the time.

But they can't check every detail on every return because of time limitations.

He says that could delay refunds for months.

"It's the fine line we have to walk in making sure we stop fraud but also making sure refunds are timely," Watson says.

The IRS site has much more information about identity theft.

E-mail me with any consumer trouble you have or "like" my LetJoeKnow Facebook page and tell me about it there.

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