Money Watchers: Tax refunds stolen

About a dozen people in Barrington reported that someone else filed income tax returns in their names.

The reports of identity theft started being made in late March.

"It's the same method. They go to file to their taxes, then they realize that somebody else has filed their taxes and they can't -- it's been returned to them," Police Chief John LaCross said.

The crime is sophisticated and hard to solve, and it's hard to know how Social Security numbers were found and then stolen.

Once police reports are filed, the IRS gets involved and the agency begins a long investigative process.

"It's very difficult to find out who filed it and where there money has gone to. So, what they do is they have to put a police report on file so they can recoup their loss," LaCross said.

Barrington isn't alone.

A West Warwick woman told NBC 10 News that her identity was stolen in the same sort of scheme. She has since put a lock on her credit and is working to rebuild all the damage already done.

The most obvious advice is to not give out your Social Security number. But you can do more.

Be proactive. Monitor your credit. If you see a change, don't wait to report it.

Consider investing in a program to lock your credit, so if anyone tries to use your Social Security number to file taxes, to get a credit card or to purchase an item, you'll be notified.

And use fraud alerts through the three credit reporting agencies if you've been victim.

"It's unfortunate, especially for the people trying to get their money back. So, if there is a way to avoid this happening," LaCross said do it.

Also keep in mind that the IRS in general doesn't make phone calls. If the agency has questions or information for you, it will come in the mail.