Scammer takes furloughed Busch Gardens employee's tax refund, stimulus check

A Tampa woman is warning others after trying to file her tax return and finding out someone else already did.  Now that unknown scammer has her refund and her Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief check.

Meri Jarrell works as a train attendant at Busch Gardens, but she's been out of work for nearly two months. With no money coming in, she was relying on her tax refund and stimulus money to support herself.

When she went to file her taxes, she learned somebody had already filed them in her name.

"If we don't get our stimulus before we get back to work, we're going to have a hard time trying to get there," Jarrell said. "I feel devastated because, like I said, I haven't worked in two months."

RELATED: Fake stimulus checks, deceptive advertising trick citizens in need of COVID-19 relief funds

She reported the theft to Tampa police, who referred to the IRS, but when she called the IRS she couldn't get anybody on the phone.

"We are unable to provide live assistance due to reduced staff levels," a recorded voice said.

She tried to file a fraud complaint on the IRS website, which directed her to fill out a form and mail a physical copy to the IRS.

The U.S. Treasury Department wants Americans to be aware of the scam.

Jarrell is now in the process of reporting the fraud to the IRS. She has an important message for people filing their taxes:

"I should have been more careful with my tax information. If you have your last year's tax envelope and stuff, don't leave it to where someone could get a hold of it," Jarrell said.

LINK: For more information on reporting tax refund fraud, visit