ID thieves target school employees' tax returns

MUNSTER, Ind. - Someone has been trying to get income tax refunds that should go to employees of a northwestern Indiana school district, officials said Tuesday.

Munster schools Superintendent Richard Sopko said his payroll department told him that tax returns for a few district employees had already been submitted when the employees tried to file them. He said the payroll employees told him that they are working with Internal Revenue Service investigators.

The IRS told The Associated Press that it can't confirm that there is an investigation due to agency policy. But an IRS website said the scheme could delay the payment of refunds to the legitimate taxpayers.

"Taxpayers are likely to see their refunds delayed while we take the necessary actions to resolve the matter," the IRS website said. Routing the refund to the correct person can take 120-150 days.

"We certainly understand this is still frustrating for the victim, but we need to make sure we confirm the identity of the correct taxpayer," the website said.

The Times reported that the tax refunds went to an unknown person's credit card. Sopko said as far as district officials know, the scheme isn't widespread. He also said he doesn't believe the information was gleaned from personnel records.

"They can't find a common denominator," Sopko said Tuesday.

An IRS website said the agency has seen "a significant increase" in similar frauds committed by identity thieves steal a taxpayer's Social Security number.

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