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  • ID theft victims in line for hours to get IRS help.

    Posted on August 30th, 2012 admin No comments

    Frustrated identity theft victims are swamping the Plantation office of the Internal Revenue Service, forming long lines to wait hours to speak to a representative – with one woman complaining of being told to come back at 4:30 a.m. to begin a new wait.

    About 50 people waited outside in the hot sun for a chance to speak to a federal tax representative at 9:30 a.m Tuesday, an hour after the IRS office opened. Some brought umbrellas.

    “It’s totally ridiculous. You should see the lines, how people have to stay in the lines,” said Broward retiree Hannah O. Singleton, an identity theft victim who said she waited four hours one day last week only to be told to come back another day. “There I was at the front of the line,” Singleton fumed.

    IRS spokesman Mike Dobzinski said his agency is bringing in additional employees and taking other steps to shorten the wait. “We’re aware that there have been longer lines recently at the Plantation office, and we apologize for the inconvenience to taxpayers,” he said in an email.

    Part of the reason for the long lines are that identity theft victims are coming into the IRS to find out why they still haven’t received their refund check four months after the tax season ended. Many of last year’s victims waited more than a year for their refunds, but the IRS promised to speed up the checks this year.

    South Florida leads the nation’s metro areas in reports of identity theft. Nationwide, a record 1.1 million Americans were tax-related identity theft victims in 2011 – a 155 percent jump in just a year, according to a recent report issued by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

    In May, the Inspector General found that the IRS was acting too slowly and giving confusing instructions, “resulting in increased burden for the victims.”

    A guard outside the Plantation IRS office said Tuesday morning all those waiting would be able to get in to talk to an agent. But one identity theft victim said she had already been turned away that morning by an IRS worker saying all the specialists who could help her were already booked.

    “He said ‘You have to be here at 4:30 a.m.,'” said Ana Moise, of Margate. She said she took that to mean she had to get in line to wait at least four hours before the office opened – all for a chance to speak to someone that day.

    Moise is still waiting to file an amended return. She said she forgot to list one of her former employers on her 2011 returns after someone beat her to filing a tax return in her name for a fraudulent refund.

    “This is really tough,” Moise said. She had been hoping to get her taxes settled before her four kids go back to school on Monday. Plus, she said she is out of work and needs her refund to pay bills.

    Another identity theft victim in line, Raquel Chavez, of Tamarac, also was anxious to get her refund after a thief claimed her Social Security number first to file a false claim. “I was promised I would get my refund in 12 to 16 weeks,” she said.

    But no money so far, prompting Chavez to take time off from work Tuesday to find out the status of her refund.

    Alan Feller, of Hollywood, has been trying to get his refund, too. He said his tax returns was held up after a thief beat him to filing in February, using his identity. He said the IRS staff first told him they were “backlogged and he would have to wait “a couple of weeks before filing the identity theft forms.” Then it would take another 90 days “for the investigation to be done,” Feller said.

    “All they will say is my case is still under investigation and they have no other information,” he added.

    That is prompting South Floridians to ask their elected officials for help.

    “We are continuing to hear from constituents about this issue and we’re doing what we can to help them,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

    IRS’ Dobzinski said his agency will keep working to improve conditions, promising to “do everything we can to help taxpayers.

    “We are working with our facilities people to determine ways that we can get people inside the building more quickly and reduce or eliminate the lines outside the building,” Dobzinski added.

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