Whether you’ve watched TV shows and/or movies about jail, or heard the horror stories from an inside source, there is no doubt that jail is not a desired place to stay.  Even so, most prisoners are not confined to a 24/7 lockdown.  Rather, the prisons have access to common items, including computers.  Today’s Fraud of the Day from The Washington Post highlights a key reason why prisoners’ access to computers can be a bit of a problem at times.

The article reported that in a 2012 review, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) detected over 173,000 fraudulent tax returns from prison inmates.  (Go figure…prisoners are using prison to continue criminal activity.  Who saw that coming?)  This figure is more than twice the number of fraudulent forms submitted in 2010, and is becoming quite a concern for those responsible for stopping the madness.  But, the IRS is fighting the good fight – they were able to stop inmates from claiming $2.5 billion in phony tax refunds.  Believe it or not, approximately $1.1 billion in bogus refunds were sought by just two inmates alone.  (When you have all that time on your hands, it is easy to come up with a “get rich quick” scheme like fraud.)

A spokeswoman for the IRS Office of the Inspector General explained why prison inmates find it easy to submit false tax return forms in prison:  “Most taxpayers find e-filing to be quick and easy. Unfortunately, some bad guys have also found it a quick and easy way to commit fraud.”  The investigators found that prison inmates obtained personal identification information such as Social Security numbers from obituaries.  (Seriously.  Bad.  Karma.)  Other inmates used their prison-allotted computer time to submit forms online. Although the IRS has taken steps to monitor the activity, there is a call for a better, more effective process to stop fraudsters behind the bars from cashing in on refunds they don’t deserve.  So, inmates are able to find a way to get away with collecting personally identifiable information, submitting false forms online and then actually receiving money.  So, what’s the solution?  How about leveraging identity management tools to stop the fraud at the beginning:  the identity.  Until then, I guess prison bars can only stop certain crimes.

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