Criminals across the country are raking in billions of dollars in tax refunds through a new and brazen form of fraud that takes advantage of the IRS's fast online returns, law enforcement officials say.
Using laptops and free Wi-Fi connections, criminals are stealing identities and using the names of legitimate taxpayers to file fraudulent online tax returns. They've raked in billions, buying luxury cars, expensive jewelry and plastic surgery, police said.
"It's like the federal government is putting crack cocaine in candy machines," said Detective Craig Catlin of the North Miami Beach, Florida, Police Department. "It's that easy."
First, thieves obtain Social Security numbers and other personal information from insiders at hospitals, doctor's offices, car dealerships or anywhere the information is stored. Then, they file an online tax return using the real taxpayer's name and a fictitious income. In most cases, the criminals buy a debit card so the IRS can issue the refund on that card, although some thieves have also gotten their returns on actual Treasury checks.
Reporter's Note: Each day I write to President Obama with no expectation that he will ever write back. So far, that has been a pretty solid assumption.
Dear Mr. President,
I trust your St. Patrick’s Day festivities were fun. We had a magnificent platter of corned beef that simmered on the stove most of the morning, mounded up with boiled carrots, and some broccoli. I realize that the absence of cabbage constitutes a sacrilege for some, but my wife and I actually have enough Irish in our veins to tell any critics…well, I won’t say here, but trust me it fits our heritage.
What I did not do this weekend is go for any long runs. Not one! This is the first weekend in some while that this has been the case. I took one short jaunt with my younger daughter, perhaps a couple of miles, and we had a lovely visit. That, however, was the extent of my training even though I have some big races coming up in just a few weeks.
Why did I slack off? While I don’t think I have any reason to fear overtraining, sometimes I find it is good to give my legs a break, and this weekend seemed to be the right time. I’ve been stumbling a bit more than I’d expect on the tougher parts of my trails through the woods, and it seems as if the fundamental reason is just fatigue. I’m not lifting my feet quite high enough, especially in the later sections, to clear all those little rocks and roots. What’s worse, when I catch a toe on a stump or boulder I don’t have enough fast twitch reaction to catch myself before falling. My muscles don’t seem to be relaxing much afterward either, even when I’m just sitting around. That can’t be good.
So I’m concentrating right now on not pushing myself.
This is a big challenge. As you know, I’m a huge proponent of the exact opposite; of people striving hard and then harder against all obstacles. But I have learned that strategic retreats are sometimes the best course of action. Oh sure, I’ll be back on my regular running courses in a day or two… but for now, I’m focusing on stretching, relaxing, and making sure that the next time I run, I can give it my best.
All of which is a long way of saying that this would be an excellent time for you and I to talk. I’m sure you’ve been just as frustrated as I am at our inability to connect, so give me a buzz in the next 30 hours or so if you have a moment. We can talk about some of those college basketball meltdowns over the weekend. Was that wild or what?
If you've ever given your social security number to a doctor, car dealership – anywhere – be sure to watch Randi Kaye's report on tax refund robbery. Thieves are stealing that information, filing tax returns with the stolen identity and a false income, then taking the refund from the IRS in the form of a debit card. This type of crime is a potential threat to all taxpayers; the IRS reported about $6.5 billion in refund fraud in connection with identity theft last year. That's just what they're aware of, not including the amount of money stolen and never recovered. Tune in to AC360° tonight at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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