Bay Area mom finds out scammer already claimed her tax refund. Here's what saved her

ByKarina Nova and Renee Koury KGO logo
Friday, March 15, 2024
Bay Area mom finds out scammer already claimed her tax refund
A North Bay woman tried to e-file her tax return, but got an error message saying someone had already done it.

ROHNERT PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- Imagine filing your tax return and finding out someone else already claimed your refund. It happened to a Rohnert Park mother of two - who was told somebody used her identity to claim almost $9,000 in her name.

Breana Rooney of Rohnert Park was about to e-file her tax returns last week when she found out somebody had beaten her to it.

"It's very creepy, let alone, you know, the steam is already coming out my ears," Rooney said.

MORE: EDD pays phony jobless claim, takes $4,000 from identity theft victim

The California EDD ignored an employer's report that they were paying benefits to a scammer... then seized the identity theft victim's tax refund.

Rooney said she was finishing her taxes with H&R Block when a message came up on the computer screen.

"'Breana Rooney, claim: two dependents; refund amount: $8,900 and some change,'" she said.

A return had already been filed in her name.

"In my head, I'm freaking out because this is a big deal," she said.

H&R Block said it would investigate, but no answers. Rooney called the Internal Revenue Service.

"'Yes, there has been a return filed in your name, with your social, on Jan. 31, January 31, 2024. 100% everything in the file is like they were you,'" Rooney said she was told.

MORE: Don't let these tax scams on social media trick you

Thankfully, Rooney had an IRS personal identification number, which the thief could not supply, so the IRS blocked any payment to the scammer.

"They said, 'Hold on, person, who are you? Verify yourself,' and they didn't verify so they didn't get it," Rooney said.

"It saved me. Otherwise, they would have got the refund. They'd be out shopping with nine grand of my money..." she said.

Still, Rooney must submit an affidavit to prove her identity and file a long-form tax return. Even then, she was told it could take up to two years to get her tax refund - about $6,000 on hold.

Worse, the IRS would not say what information the thief knew about her and her two children.

"That's what freaks me out the most, my new baby and my 12-year-old, like their information is out there for the world to see," Rooney said.

VIDEO: Hackers took their Middle Class Tax Refunds and now victims are getting a tax bill

Californians who received debit cards with the funds already drained by scammers are waiting to see if they have to pay taxes on the missing money.

The IRS has been using more fraud filters to deter theft. It flagged more than one million suspicious tax returns last year.

"That definitely has been growing for the last few years. And certainly, we have lots of tools, if you will, to help prevent it," IRS spokesperson Raphael Tulino said to 7 On Your Side.

If you think you may be a victim of tax identification theft, log onto You'll find information on what to do.

On Friday, March 15, 7 On Your Side is teaming up with the United Way to answer all your tax questions. You can get advice from tax professionals by submitting your questions at this link. Then join us live from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. right here on ABC7

Take a look at more stories and videos by 7 On Your Side.

7OYS's consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

You may also email 7OYS@KGO-TV.COM.

Please note the address uses the letter "O", not zero. Be sure to include your full name, email, street address, and phone number.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live