It may be one of the most profitable home based business in the world, yet most Americans don't know about it. It is the lucrative business of stealing tax refunds. Last year alone, more than $5.2 billion was stolen. The scammers simply buy lists of Social Security numbers and begin filing tax returns online. The IRS online filing system has no means of confirming that it is the actual taxpayer filing the return. Victims only learn that their refund has been stolen after attempting to file their return. The IRS will reject their filing, notifying them that a return has already been filed under that Social Security number. After learning that your refund has been stolen, it may take years to get things straightened out and finally get your money.
According a a recent 60 Minutes story, a Miami man by the name of Corey Williams was submitting fifteen bogus returns a day. Williams says he would average $3,000 for each return he filed. On a typical day he would file fifteen - $45,000 per day (not bad). Williams says all he needed was a laptop computer and he did it all from the comfort of his home. Even more shocking, 60 Minutes reports that the IRS still has no way to stop this scam.
Williams was operating out of his Miami, FL home (Miami is a hotbed for identity theft and tax refund fraud). The scam, however, is occurring nationwide. For example, this month 26 year old James Ekeke of Smyrna, GA was indicted for an alleged $4 million refund stealing operation of his own.
It is not even limited to the United States or U.S. citizens for that matter. According to a USA Today article, the IRS sent 655 tax refunds to the same address in Lithuania, and also 343 refund checks to the same address in Shanghai, China - all without realizing they were being scammed.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?
Apparently there is not much you can do, other than to be sure and file your return as early as possible. Experts say that the longer you wait to file, the greater the window of opportunity you provide thieves to get your refund before you do. Of course, it should go without saying, but also do what you can to protect your Social Security number (if its not already up for sale online).
Helping you make the most of God's money!