It was only a year ago.
Tax return fraud in the Tampa area was such a problem that long lines of people formed at the local IRS office, many demanding to know "who stole my money?"
"For somebody to sit back and just do this, for all of us that just get up and we go to work every day, and then for somebody to just take what we've worked for, I don't understand how the IRS or anybody's letting that happen," said victim Ferlia Bryant in February 2012.
Suspects would get a hold of a victim's name and social security number, and just like that, file a return in their name – stealing their hard earned money.
Tax fraud kept local law enforcement officials busy with more than 20,000 cases, a total of millions just in the Bay area alone.
In years past, local authorities have said it's been a challenge working with the Internal Revenue Service to investigate these tax cases.
Now they say this year it's not going to be a problem.
"We've got a new leader so to speak for the IRS in the Tampa area, and he's done a fantastic job organizing an alliance with the state and local agencies," said Sgt. Pat Kennedy of the Tampa Police Department. "Six of our employees will be sworn in with the IRS, and that's going to give us access to some of their information."
The new IRS policies come two years after Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Congressman Rich Nugent filed a bill looking for changes in the IRS to help fight tax return fraud.
These new policies come before that bill has passed.
The new cooperation will speed up investigations, but Castor said it won't completely fix the problem.
"We've got to continue to press the IRS to prevent this from happening in the first place," said Castor.
The IRS will now flag numerous returns going to one address or one bank account.
In the meantime, local police say when you get your W-2, don't wait to file.
And, now, with the help of the IRS, they have a message for anyone looking to steal your return.
"If you have any intention at all of identity theft or filing fraudulent tax returns, that we will be after you," said Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.
The bill sponsored by Reps. Castor and Nugent calls for increased penalties for anyone convicted of tax return fraud and also calls for a study of tax returns issued on debit cards.
That is how many of the fraudulent returns were issued.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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