A Knoxville family lost its tax return to identity theft when they needed it the most.
J.J. Stambaugh, a former reporter for the Knoxville News Sentinel, filed his taxes several months ago with expectations of receiving a tax return of more than $6,500.
It's money Stambaugh's family desperately needs. Stambaugh's family has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills due to his four-year fight with chronic Pancreatitis. He said he takes 15 types of medication a day.
"Early stage organ failure as one of my specialists put it," Stambaugh said.
The Stambaugh's first thought something was wrong with their tax return after they went a few weeks without receiving it. J.J. Stambaugh made phone calls to the IRS, which he said repeatedly gave him different dates as to when it would come.
Then, last week, Stambaugh called the IRS again.
"I talked to a gentleman at the IRS who explained to me that some individual had stolen my social security number and had been able to file for an e-return," Stambaugh said.
After 17 hospital visits, Stambaugh believes someone in the medical system may have gotten a hold of his social security number. But right now, he and his wife, Jenna, are curious as to how anyone could receive their tax refund so easily.
"You go some place and you expect people to be caring and looking out for you, not looking for people to steal from," Jenna Stambaugh said.
According to IRS spokesperson Dan Boone, tax fraud cases have increased across the country as millions of taxpayers move across the country and change jobs.
"The IRS understands that being a victim of ID theft is a frustrating process. ID theft perpetrators are hitting credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions, and the tax system is not immune," Brown said in a statement.
Brown told 10News in January the IRS and Department of Justice targeted dozens of alleged tax fraud criminal in 23 states. It arrested 58 people and is looking to capture more.
In 2011, the IRS said it stopped more than 260,000 fraudulent refunds related to ID theft and protected more than $1.4 billion in refunds.
"We have tightened up fraud filters in the processing system and have created an Identity Protection Specialized Unit to help victims through the process of getting their rightful refunds," Brown's statement said.
But, for right now, that doesn't help the Stambaughs who said the IRS told them it might take six months before their tax problems are straightened out.
He said the whole incident disturbs him because he was hoping to take his daughter and wife to Disney World before his health deteriorated to the point in which he could not do so. After receiving multiple press rewards for his work with the News-Sentinel, Stambaugh said he was just confused as to how all of this has happened.
"I was a good reporter, had just won the Golden Press Card award in fact," Stambaugh said. "That's the highest award you can get around here and the next thing you know, it's all gone. You get sick and it's all gone."
Stambaugh told 10News he plans to soon talk to the Knoxville Police Department about his stolen identity theft case. He still needs to talk to authorities on the state and federal levels as well.
His wife Jenna has set up a charity named "Save Our Stambaughs". You can find it by clicking here.
The IRS could not comment on their specific case because of legal reasons. However, the agency urges anyone who finds themselves in a hardship situation to contact their Taxpayer Advocate Service at 1-877-777-4778. It also asks that anyone who is a victim of ID theft related tax fraud contact its special unit at 1-800-908-4490.