Q: I have a friend who fills the tax returns for me and a couple of my friends every year. My friends did not get their tax refunds last year.

As it turns out, our accountant friend seems to have given his own address and account number for all of my friends’ tax returns to be direct-deposited.

Is this identity theft? What is the federal punishment for such an offense?

A: Sounds like your “friend” is no friend. The person who filed your tax returns and stole your money is likely guilty of fraud, which is a much more serious offense (not to suggest that identity theft isn’t taken serious). The punishment could include making restitution, paying a fine, and jail time. Please talk to your attorney or call the IRS. Your friends might also want to check their credit histories and scores to be sure something else unpleasant didn’t happen. You can pull a free copy of your credit history each year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. And this year, either learn how to file your own taxes (if you make less than $50,000 you can file for free with the IRS and have the funds direct deposited to your own account), or pay a licensed accountant to file them on your behalf.