Four months after a vehicle wreck robbed his son of his life, Jason Miller discovered crooks had stolen his son's identity.
The Miller family was still in mourning over the loss of Joshua, their 17-year-old, when Jason filed his family's income taxes in January, listing Joshua as a dependent, as tax law allows.
But the electronic filing quickly was rejected via e-mail. "I thought I must have made a mistake," Jason said. "I went in and looked over the information and determined it looked good to me, so I thought it was a problem with the software," he said.
By refiling several more times, and through the process of elimination, he came to realize that the IRS wasn't accepting his son as a dependent because someone else already had claimed him as one.
"You can claim someone as a dependent even if they die, if they were a dependent even for a day," Jason said. "But the crooks know this, too. All they have to do is beat you to the punch."
What someone had done, he later came to realize, was to comb through public records to find the name of his son and, likely, other people who recently died. Then the perpetrator sifted through more public records to get their Social Security numbers to use on fraudulent tax returns.
"At this point, the realization sets in - somebody has just stolen my deceased son's identify to benefit themselves financially," Jason said. "They didn't know him, they didn't care for him, they didn't nurture him, they didn't raise him. They just yanked the rugs out from under us for his identify. And I'm just floored by that."
Identity thieves use the names of dead people as both dependents and as the people filing the returns. Then they have tax refunds sent to post office boxes, apartments that they briefly rent or prepaid credit cards that can be purchased at stores and aren't tied to the holder's name.