South Carolina garnishes tax refund of woman who warned about unemployment fraud
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A victim of identity theft now says the IRS took her tax refund. She says she’s only getting that money back after she called the WBTV Investigates Team for help.
April Tucker said she followed every step to fix the problem but still couldn’t get the problem resolved.
Tucker felt lucky that she was able to keep her job throughout the whole pandemic. That’s why she was stunned when she received a letter from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce about an unemployment claim in her name.
“I got notified in July of 2020 that I had an unemployment claim in my name. I immediately reached out and told them that I did not open an employment claim and that I’m currently employed,” Tucker said.
Tucker said she knew pretty quickly she was a victim of identity theft and someone was using her information to start receiving and cashing unemployment checks.
“The second letter did have a mailing address and it was in Charleston, SC. I reside in Rock Hill for over 20 years,” Tucker said.
Based on her experience, it took DEW a very long time to come to that conclusion, and it only happened after the WBTV Investigates Team started asking DEW questions.
After the first letter in 2020, Tucker said she told DEW she thought she was a victim of unemployment fraud.
“They said ‘OK, we will handle it and document it as fraud’ so I kind of thought that it was over with, in regards to an unemployment claim,” Tucker said.
A year later, another letter.
“Stating that I owed them $2,900 for overpayment,” Tucker said.
“So at that point, I was very upset because I knew that I notified them the prior year and this is when I was told that I should have done some additional steps...steps such as filing a police report.”
Tucker filed the police report and provided a copy to WBTV, which we verified with the Rock Hill Police Department.
Then in March, yet another letter, this one from the IRS.
“This is the most recent letter I got from the IRS advising me that the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce had funds transferred to them for this supposed unemployment claim that was opened in my name in 2020,” Tucker said.
“They applied $3,604.90 and that’s what was sent to South Carolina unemployment.”
Now an employee from DEW is telling Tucker there were many other steps she should have completed but wasn’t told about at the time.
“This time I am sending Social Security cards, I’m taking pictures with my driver’s license, I’m sending my driver’s license,” Tucker said.
“Two years later, after notification, they still garnish my taxes over a claim that I told him that was fraud, that I feel like it’s clear fraud,” Tucker said.
WBTV reached out to the SCDEW to ask how this could possibly happen after so many warnings. A spokesperson wrote DEW “absolutely takes this matter seriously” and “representatives at the agency are in contact with Ms. Tucker and our investigation is nearing its conclusion.”
Tuesday morning Tucker told WBTV she received a call from DEW informing her their investigation found she was a victim of identity theft and they would reimburse her for the money garnished from her tax refund.
“You can’t say that this process works if it takes two years,” Tucker said.
South Carolina reported nearly $10 million in unemployment fraud in the fiscal year 2021 and recouped nearly half of that. One of WBTV’s major questions is whether some of that is coming from people like Tucker who say they are victims and not perpetrators.
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