Despite advances in technology, thieves are always one step ahead. Of the many things they steal, one prominent one this time of year are tax refund checks. This is accomplished of course through identity fraud.
Take the case of 71-year-old Mike Bucalo Jr. Mike never lived in Miami, having lived the past 25 years in Akron, Ohio. Somehow, his tax return for last year had him residing in Florida.
How does this happen?
According to the Huffington Post, the thief used a fake Florida address and Bucalo's stolen Social Security number and somehow conned the Internal Revenue Service into paying them Bucalo's tax refund earlier this year.
How did Mike find out? The retired pipe-fitter learned this the hard way when his legitimate tax return was rejected by TurboTax, claiming his Social Security number had already been used.
Still working on the mountain of paperwork, Bucalo won't get the $900 tax refund for another year.
Mike is far from alone. Identity thieves are increasingly filing false tax returns to get their hands on refund money. It's not only costing the government billions in stolen refund money -- it's slowing down legitimate returns for others.
In 2011, the IRS saw a massive jump in such scams over 2010. It stopped 262,000 fake returns and $1.4 billion in refunds because of identity theft in 2011, compared to fewer than 50,000 falsified returns and $247 million dollars in 2010.
This, like the epidemic theft in all other aspects of our lives these days, is quite disturbing. Perhaps mandatory Florida theft classes for all school children might curb the upward spiking trend of theft. In the meantime, guard yourself.