MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – You have probably heard about people stealing identities to open credit cards and purchase cars. But there a growing problem – people getting tax refunds after stealing someone’s identity.

In the next five years, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that $21 billion in refunds will be given out to thieves who stole identities of unsuspecting people and filed phony tax returns.

“I have so many constituents who have called my office and said ‘I filed my taxes and I was told that my tax form was already filed and somebody else filed it. Not only that, but I was told that the return that I was supposed to get from the federal government went elsewhere,'” Rep. Steve Israel told WCBS 880 reporter Sophia Hall. “This is a growing criminal enterprise.”

He said 1.5 million bogus tax returns were filed last year and $5.2 billion in refunds were diverted from the rightful taxpayer to a criminal.

“This is not just a matter of anger. It’s a matter of injustice, unfairness, and it’s hurting our economy,” Israel said.

What should you do if you are a victim?

“There is recourse. They can talk to the federal government. They can talk to the FTC,” Israel said.

The Federal Trade Commission can be reached at 877-ID-THEFT or www.ftc.gov.

Israel said you can also get help by calling his office 202-225-3335.

More From CBS New York

Download Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE