Billions of dollars are stolen each year in a scheme that is easy to pull off, and if you're a taxpayer you're one of the victims.
The scheme was all uncovered by a mail carrier on his regular delivery route.
"I was delivering the mail and noticed the names did not match the people who lived at the house," said Richard Russo, U.S. Letter Carrier.
He was suspicious when he started seeing one address getting multiple Treasury checks with different names.
"This is an ID theft investigation that started off with perpetrators stealing or buying peoples' Social Security numbers, then file false W-2 forms to the victim attached to that Social Security number," said Cheryl Swyers, U.S. Postal Inspector.
With that information, scam artists can file a fraudulent tax refund.
Because the U.S. Treasury check has to be issued to a specific address, thieves either pay an accomplice to pick up the check or pick it up themselves.
"Actually at one time every house on one street was getting one and they were all fraudulent names," said Russo.
Thieves are getting the IDs from black market lists or by bribing an employee with access to a big database. They even troll "underground" web sites.
Experts say the scam is easy to pull off, especially with electronic filing. The IRS does not cross-check all returns against employer payroll records before a refund is issued.
"One particular day, I would have 10 checks .... then 10 checks, maybe 20. In all I had $900,000 worth of bogus checks," said Russo.
More than $6 billion was lost last year alone.
Along with victims whose Social Security information is compromised, taxpayers are also the victim.
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