All tax frauds need are Social Security numbers, full names and dates of birth, to file fraudulent tax returns, with the other details being made-up.
Erkes Antwon Green, 28, stole the identities of taxpayers to file false tax returns in their names and pocket the refund money. Green’s scam went so well, he purchased a $73,000 Mercedes-Benz using the stolen identity of one of his victims, according to an Atlanta news report.
Green used a keystroke recorder, a device that when attached to a computer can gather information based on the activity on the keyboard. Green extracted important information from hundreds of taxpayers using this technology. Detectives found more than 140 files with people’s names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers in Green’s residence.
The case of Green is not rare. Investigators in the U.S. Treasury Department estimate that over $20 billion in fraudulent tax refunds could make its way into identity thieves’ pockets over the next five years if more steps aren’t taken to fight tax fraud.
Without a proper Social Security number, tax frauds are unable file a tax return. Therefore, it is essential for taxpayers to keep their Social Security numbers protected. The use of debit or credit cards online can heighten the threat of someone gaining access to sensitive information, so taxpayers should only enter their card numbers on verifiable secured sites, or they can sign up for services, such as TrustedID, that provide privacy, security and reputation management to help protect people from credit and identity theft.
To combat possible identity theft, taxpayers should keep track of the information they have shared online. “Googling yourself” or signing up for a Google alert on your name can help monitor a taxpayer’s online presence. Sharing personal information, such as date of birth, home address, and most importantly, a Social Security number, on social networking sites or e-mails can be dangerous, as accounts can be hacked, or information sold.
A little caution when sharing personal information online or offline is essential this tax season because tax frauds are out lurking for whatever they can get their hands on.