Thursday, September 1, 2011

Computer Scam Becoming More Popular than Pushing Drugs in Tampa

Tampa Postal Inspector Doug Smith looks over confiscated letters that contain checks and debit cards.

The Tampa Tribune alerts us to a disturbing trend: one way the number of drug dealers on the street has suddenly dropped is because they discovered a much safer way of taking in large amounts of money: file fraudulent tax returns.

...when officers made traffic stops, they began noticing something odd.

They were finding "massive amounts" of preloaded debit cards, along with ledgers and laptop computers, said Sgt. Terry Goff in an exclusive interview with The Tampa Tribune and News Channel 8.

They soon uncovered what Goff said was an explosion of tax fraud that permeated the city's poorest neighborhoods and some of its most influential conclaves. Erstwhile street criminals were now using laptops and mailboxes to steal hundreds of millions of dollars by filing fraudulent tax returns with stolen Social Security numbers.

Investigators believe Tampa is at the tip of a national trend that has created a hemorrhage of federal tax dollars. In a six-month period, Postal Inspector Doug Smith said his agents seized an estimated $100 million in fraudulent tax refunds destined for local mailboxes. And Police Chief Jane Castor said she thinks that number represents less than 10 percent of the total fraud.

If Castor's estimate is close, the total fraud in the Tampa area alone could approach $1 billion.

Read the full article to find out about how this crime has been compared to "rock cocaine on a plastic card," how training classes were set up, the feeling of impunity among these identity thieves/tax cheats, and how the IRS made it harder to catch these criminals by refusing to share their information with police.

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