Steve Kroft explores a massive tax refund scam on 60 Minutes tonight on CBS at 7:30 pm. We now live in an environment that is increasingly without any real protection against fraud, and where computer security is so porous that even the world’s largest, richest companies are sitting ducks for hackers. Last week Home Depot announced that its computer databases were hacked and information about 56 million customers was stolen. The same thing happened last year with Target. In August–and not for the first or last time–banking giant JP Morgan Chase had its cyber security breached.
Kroft’s “Tax Refund Scam” story shows how once hackers obtain personal information from these breaches, they can use it to steal from various places. One of the main targets? How about an organization far richer than Target or Home Depot or even JP Morgan? In Kroft’s 60 Minutes investigation the United States government is the main target–and all thieves need to rob the US Treasury is a list of hacked social security numbers. That’s easy pickings for the big data heists that are happening daily. Kroft interviews one con man who filed thousands of false tax returns using stolen social security numbers and had refund checks sent to multiple addresses. Sometimes he didn’t even bother to take that precaution–he estimates he had 25 returns sent to the same address. How often did it work? Forty percent of the time. How long did it take to get a real check from the US Treasury for a fraudulent tax return? A week or less. The tax refund scam has cost the US billions.