Pacific senior has identity, tax return stolen

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PACIFIC, MO (KTVI) - Senior citizens are often the target of scams. A few weeks ago, a Pacific, Missouri woman discovered her identity was stolen. She’s hoping her story will prevent it from happening to other seniors.

Jean Guffey, director at the Tri-County Community Senior Center, says someone in Atlanta filed a tax return using her name and social security number. The $1,300 refund was sent to a Visa debit card account, also in Jean’s name.

‘'They went and cashed it out immediately and got the $1,300. I knew nothing of it ‘til I received this letter about two weeks ago,” she said.

The letter is from a company called PayPower. It was an annual privacy policy notice sent to anybody who holds one of the cards.

The people who visit the center get lots of advice from Jean.

‘'They’re getting calls, people trying to get money from them and this kind of thing. And I want them to be aware of what they need to do so that they are not taken,” she said.

The first thing she tells them is contact the police. While local police can't do much about a thief in Atlanta, the IRS asks that you at least go on record to report the crime.

Det. Amanda Meyer of the Pacific Police Department says she hears the complaints.

‘'Tax time is coming right now and that is when we are getting hit really hard,” she said. ‘‘We’ve already had five reports in Pacific itself for tax fraud.”

According to a report from the U.S. Treasury, approximately 270,518 taxpayers were victims of identity theft in 2010. Three years later, that number climbed to 1.63 million victims. And Det. Meyer says seniors who are home more are hit hard by phone scammers.

‘'You’ll have someone that’s pretending that they’re with the IRS or they’re with Medicare and they need to update your information. Never, ever hand your information out over the phone. '

Jean says it’s a taxing, tedious process to regain you identity once it’s stolen.

‘'Now I’m going to have to prove who I am,” she said. ‘‘Somebody else has already proved they’re me. So how do I go back and say this is really who I am?”

Sharing information about identity theft with your elderly family and friends is certainly a must-have conversation. They have no control over data breaches, but they should be warned about the telephone scammer.

Helpful links:
Social Security Administration
ID theft and Social Security Numbers