WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It's a crime prosecutors are calling an "epidemic" in South Florida. A crime you could be a victim of right now and not even know it.
Gang members and organized crime units are getting bolder when it comes to stealing your private information to steal your identity.
Jackie Keeley of Delray Beach didn't know she was a victim, until her home went up in flames.
"That starts the nightmare," said Keeley. She found out when she checked her credit to buy a new home.
"The system you think is there to protect you, is not there to protect you," she said.
For Tony Carpentiere of Tequesta, it was an unusual letter he received in the mail.
"I said, 'you know there's something wrong' and I wanted to get to the bottom of it," he said.
Someone stole both of their identities to file fake tax returns.
"You just feel violated, you feel violated an unprotected," said Keeley.
They don't know how their Social Security numbers were taken, but Beth Saitta knows how it happened to her.
"The bad guys were in and out in 5 minutes, gone," said Saitta.
Thieves broke into her Palm Springs dentist office. They didn't take her TV or any money, they took 300 patient files.
"It was scary because you know we were targeted, it wasn't something that was random," said Saitta.
"It's like a nasty root canal that just won't go away," Saitta explained.
That was in December of 2012. One year later, Palm Springs Detective Joe Derogatis is still waiting for an IRS agent to take the case.
"It's frustrating," said Detective Derogatis.
"I'm sitting here with information that could possibly lead to suspects being identified and maybe an arrest made and I can't do it alone as a single law enforcement officer," he said.
The detective needs help from an agency that's swamped with more cases of identity theft in South Florida than anywhere else in the country. In the past three years, the number of identity theft complaints from our area has more than tripled from 10,424 in 2010 to 37,070 in 2012.
"Small organized crime groups have moved into this because fraud is easy and enforcement is difficult," said detective Derogatis.
When Jacie Keeley filed last year, so did the person who stole her information.
"So they gave a refund to somebody, while I paid a check they cashed," Keeley explained. "Isn't that wrong," she asked.
Tony Carpentiere's thief used his Social Security number, but someone else's address.
"There's no such address and right there the IRS should've said 'OK, that's wrong,' " he said.
And in Beth Saitta's cases, they didn't only steal her identity. They stole the identities of her two young children.
"They changed their date of birth and they did fake W2s," she said.
The victims haven't been able to get answers from the IRS. And neither could the Contact 5 Investigators.
"We're doing our best to catch more and more," said Michael Dobzinski, an IRS spokesperson based out of Miami.
"All I can tell you is we have certain filters in place to double check some of those things and if I knew what those were, I wouldn't want to give those out so that I would give the crooks a tip," said Dobzinksi.
But the IRS spokesperson said they are seeing more cases like what happened at Beth's dentist office.
"We have seen cases where the more bang for the buck, the easier it is for the criminal," said Dobzinski.
When it comes to the victims filing their taxes this year, they have to do it before someone else does.
"They (suspects) filed right away, right away, so don't wait," said Keeley.