IRS investigating possible identity theft at Munster schools

MUNSTER | The Internal Revenue Service is investigating several cases of what may be identity theft at the School Town of Munster.

Munster schools Superintendent Richard Sopko said a couple of employees who recently filed their 2013 income taxes were told by IRS that the taxes already had been filed. Sopko said this was reported to the school district about two weeks ago.

“It’s more than one but not widespread at this time, to our knowledge,” he said. “We contacted IRS. They told us that it happens from time to time and they told us about two additional cases. The employees didn’t know about it because they hadn’t filed their taxes yet. We told them about it. The IRS is investigating. They are looking for common denominators. They’ve checked our records and don’t believe it’s from our personnel records.”

Sopko said identity theft is an overstatement; rather it’s someone trying to claim the tax refund of school employees.

“It’s an ongoing investigation, and they are still working on it. It’s kind of scary,” he said.

The issue came to light when a Munster school employee posted comments on Facebook that four employees at Frank H. Hammond Elementary School had their identity stolen and their tax refund checks went to an unknown person’s credit card.

An IRS spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said Monday, “It is not as though our systems have been hacked like what happened at Target.”

She said sometimes someone with access to such information steals it.

The spokeswoman, who asked that her name not be used, also issued a statement Monday afternoon saying while the agency is prohibited by federal law from discussing any individual’s private tax matters, it knows identity theft is a frustrating, complex process for victims, and it has taken several steps over the past several years to try to prevent it.

Since 2011, the IRS has stopped 15 million suspicious returns and protected more than $50 billion in fraudulent refunds, according to the statement. “We’re getting better at stopping this before the money goes out the door,” the spokeswoman said.

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