Joplin resident victim of identity theft, tax fraud

Two Joplin residents say they are victims of identity theft. Now they are trying to clean up what is being called a “legal mess”.

It’s happened during tax filing season when identity theft is more common. But police say criminals seem to be willing to “do more” than before.

“It makes me feel violated,” says the real Barbara Lambert-Reppy.

She learned she was the victim of identity theft when she tried to electronically file this year’s tax return.

“When it wouldn’t go electronically I contacted the IRS to find out what the deal was,” Lampert-Reppy says.

The IRS expected her to also submit adjusted gross income, as the Barbara Lambert-Reppy who lives in Jesup, Georgia did in 2011.

There’s just one big problem. The Lambert-Reppy in Georgia and the Lambert-Reppy in Joplin both are on IRS record as having the same social security number.

“I have no idea where Jesup, Georgia is.”

This Lambert-Reppy says she didn’t even file taxes in 2011 because back then she only received disability income.

“I’ve taken, personally, in the last week, two reports for this of people going to file their income taxes and someone has already filed it under their social security number,” says Cpl. Chuck Niess of the Joplin Police Department.

“It’s not that we get a lot, but we do see it, and we do see a few more each year,” says Barbara Bradhurst of Erickson’s Liberty Tax Service.

IRS records show the fake Lambert-Reppy in Georgia got a return of more than $6,000.

If only that was legit.

“My vehicle would be fixed instead of sitting back there broke down,” says Lambert-Reppy.

“Post Office Box, or someone else’s address, I mean, they’re pretty adept at playing the game a lot of times,” says Cpl. Niess.

TThere’s the usual, but important reminder of common safeguards.

“You should not be carrying your Social Security card in your wallet or your purse,” says Bradhurst.

But police have a warning. Sometimes, no matter what you do identity theft happens.

“Criminals are able to buy this information,” says Cpl. Niess.

So the real Lambert-Reppy with the Social Security number intended for only her waits with a 90 day watch on her credit and hopes nothing more happens.

Tax preparers say if you suspect identity theft, the IRS will probably tell you to file reports with local police and with the Federal Trade Commission.