Scammers have stolen the identities of five children from an Indianapolis family, but their mother now joins a growing chorus of complaints about how the nation's tax agency handles an exploding numbers of identity theft cases aimed at stealing tax refunds.
"It's like you're forced to give up because you don't know what else to do," Elizabeth Osorio told investigators as she provided an inside view of her fight to take her children's identities back.
"I don't feel like I've been helped," she said after filing numerous police reports and placing countless calls to the Internal Revenue Service.
Her purse containing all five children's Social Security cards was stolen during a 2011 shopping trip at the Walmart in northwest Indianapolis. A stranger immediately began filing tax returns and receiving a larger refund by claiming all five kids as their own dependents.
"I don't know who these people are. They've been using my kids' information to file their tax returns," said Osorio at her family's northwest Indianapolis apartment.
Ever since the purse rip-off, she said she has been paying higher taxes because she is unable to claim her own children as dependents. "They hit the jackpot," she said of the identity thieves.
Investigators had cameras rolling as she placed some of her recent calls to the IRS. Each time she said she waits up to 20 minutes on hold and then gets various answers about why the problem cannot be solved. "Based on what the IRS said, these things happen all the time and the only thing they could do is just report it, send it to some kind of database ... and not much is being done about it," said Osorio.
A review of local police reports found between four and eight new reports of tax return identity theft being reported each week to Indianapolis police over the past three months.
Another local mother, Heather Humble of Greenwood, told the investigators she has been encountering the same deaf ears as she tries to take back her 4-year-old son's stolen identity. "It's absolutely ridiculous," she said. "It's so ridiculous that I would have to spend all of this time, energy to prove that my son actually lives with me to claim him, when the person who fraudulently claimed him didn't have to provide a single bit of evidence that the child was in their care at all."