Even though you might have never heard of it (we hadn't), identity theft via fake tax return is kind of a gigantic freaking problem. According to Tom:
"Typically, scammers just need to get someone's social security number, name, and address -- with that, you can usually put together someone's other vital stats: mother's maiden name, existing family, etc. They fill out fake tax info, filled with refundable credits: earned income, additional child, etc. Typically, they stand to gain around $4,000 for a bad return. The scale this is happening on is just unbelievably vast."
Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
"The six new dependents you claimed this year wouldn't be so suspicious
if you were, say, a rabbit or a cat."
He's not kidding: In 2012, the IRS refunded an estimated $5 billion to identity thieves. And they expect to give away another $21 billion over the next five years. And all that fraud means a shitload of phone calls for Tom and his co-workers. Tom works in the Taxpayer Protection Program, which exists specifically to thwart identity theft:
"I think we're the only government program that actually does what it says on the box! Short version: We use a ton of computer filters on incoming returns to identify possible identity theft returns. We flag them, stop them, and then, because computers don't get everything right, we go straight Batman on their asses."
Yes, Batarangs are deductible as business expenses.
We assume he means "detective" Batman, not "throwing criminals off of cathedrals" Batman. Still, you couldn't blame him too much:
"Single mother of three with a deadbeat ex? Eighty-year-old grandmother? I've talked to all of these, as victims of this crime. I've had people threaten suicide because they think we're going to come after them. ... It's not a victimless crime, this faceless, electronic theft. And the assholes who commit it? Their 'best outcome' is they make off with a big, fat check, while Uncle Sam tries to accuse grandma of being a tax cheat."
Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images
"Well, granny, maybe you should get off your ass and start a webcam show
instead of whining about your 'fixed income' all day."
Tom's whole career is to act as a shield against these sociopathic shit-goblins:
"The other week I helped out a woman who'd just been served a notice of foreclosure on her home thanks to $220,000 in debts someone else made in her name. Obviously, she's freaking out when she calls me. But I'm able to verify her story pretty quickly, and the criminal investigation side of things swung into gear. The crook's [electronically filed tax return] was tracked down to a public library, and the FBI's cyber-crime guys managed to get the security camera footage."
"No, that guy's just watching porn. He's watching porn. Porn. Porn. Wait!
I think that's ... No, sorry, porn."
The crook was on camera, and as it turns out, he was a person that the victim knew. She got to keep her house after that. May your next interaction with the IRS be just as positive as hers was.
Robert Evans really hopes this article doesn't make the IRS angry. He also has a Twitter.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Insane Things I Learned About Drugs As An Undercover Agent and 6 Insane Details Of Corrupt Politics That Movies Get Wrong.
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