By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s tax refund season and Raymond Grey was expecting a $2,000-plus check from the IRS, but now it’s unclear if that check will ever arrive in the mail.

“I worked all year. Some money is coming into my account. Guess what, I can have some fun. Guess what? Someone else is having fun,” Grey said.

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As Grey came to learn, identity thieves had stolen his name and Social Security number and filed for him, claiming a refund well in excess of that $2,000.

Now, Grey has joined the ranks of millions of Americans who will now have to appeal to the IRS for the tax refund that’s rightfully theirs. That means countless hours filing out forms and waiting on hold.

“I’m like, really the same song? We’ll be with you shortly,” Grey said.

It’s an enormous problem for the IRS and it’s only getting worse. The IRS paid out $5 billion in bogus refunds four years ago and experts say that could quadruple this coming year.

Why?

Identity thieves are mining the dark web for your Social Security number, date of birth and even the names of your dependents.

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At cyber security firm TiVERSA, they say the theft of IRS refunds is perhaps the easiest form of cybercrime since it only requires your name, your Social Security number and an online tax return form.

Now, it’s easier still because of massive data thefts that have made all of this personal information available for sale on the dark web for as little as $3 or $5 a pop.

“Every year, it’s going to get worse. Especially this past year with all the major breaches we’ve had, the Targets, the Home Depots, the Michaels and just recently the Anthem health care of over 80 million individual users,” says Andy Tormasi, of TiVERSA.

For its part, the IRS is calling stopping the thefts, “a top priority,” and says it thwarted 19 million bogus returns worth $63 billion over the past four years.

The agency will be supplying all victims a personal identification number in the coming years to ensure they won’t be hacked again.

At TiVERSA, they say the IRS should supply a PIN to every filer in America. That way, more people could escape the fate of Grey who now must wait a minimum of six months for his refund.

Until the IRS makes those changes, your only protection is to be hyper-vigilant about your personal information and perhaps getting an identity theft protection service.

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