ID theft can cause myriad headaches, and waiting over two years to get your rightful tax refund is one of them. 

Fox Business tells the story of a woman named Wendy who lost her husband suddenly to a pulmonary embolism when he was only 31. She began the seemingly endless paperwork required at a spouse’s death. When April arrived, she filed the joint tax return, the last joint return she’d file with her late husband’s name. Still grieving, she was relieved to be done with the paperwork.

Or what she thought would be the last of the paperwork. When Wendy’s accountant e-filed the return, the IRS informed them that someone had already filed a tax return with her husband’s Social Security number.

The accountant was instructed by the IRS to send a paper tax return to the IRS. He did. After three months passed and without a word from the IRS, he called and inquired about the status. The IRS told him Wendy needed to fix an error with the paperwork. So she filled out the required form and the accountant sent it in with the copy of the death certificate, as instructed. 

By September, they still hadn’t heard anything, and the IRS started sending Wendy collection notices. When Wendy’s accountant called the IRS collection department, the representative said they had no knowledge about her identity theft claim.

The following September, they were still dealing with the IRS collections department. The IRS finally told them that the problem was that Wendy’s name was listed first on the identity theft report, rather than her husband’s name being listed first. The IRS then required that she and her accountant file the identity theft report paperwork again, starting from scratch. 

After the new report was filed, the IRS finally agreed to write Wendy her refund check. But they told her that it would be sent to her old address, where she hadn’t lived for months. Although Wendy had filed a change of address with the IRS when she moved, the IRS said procedure required them to send it to the old address — the best she could do was to visit whoever was living at her old address and ask them to mail her the check. Or she could wait until the check was returned and the IRS would reissue the check and send it to the correct address.

Wendy finally got her refund 850 days after she filed her return. 

It’s impossible to avoid all the headaches that come with identity theft, but you can minimize the damage by keeping a close eye on your credit report. (You can check your credit scores for free every month on

It also helps to file your tax return as early as possible, to beat any fraudsters who may file under your Social Security number.