America, despite its youth, has a number of rich traditions; baseball, Apple Pie, Chevrolet and, to a lesser extent, confident men. From fake deeds on gold mines, literally gold mines, from the mid 1800’s to the depression-era, to the Horatio Alger villain that wouldn’t hesitate to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. The country has been on the cutting edge of crime for years. Who was the first country to work the Nigerian Prince con? The United States. If you look at your spam folder right now, you will undoubtedly see to a number of others, both domestically and internationally.

Social Security Card

The sheer propagation of these scams prompted famed showman P.T. Barnum to quip, “There is a sucker born every minute.” Ironically, one of the fastest growing scams out there involves those not who are born suckers, but often dead soldiers and infants. As Americans by the millions are preparing to file their taxes a number of them will find that they already have. Conmen and woman are going out of their way to not simply steal your identity but steal your tax return. Don’t worry, if you’re not owed a refund this will probably not affect you, there are not too many Robin Hood types out there filing your taxes only to find you owe money and then cutting Uncle Sam a check.

The U.S. Treasury estimates the $21 billion will be lost to this type of scam in the next five years. A huge number given the large national debt, I wasn’t sure the IRS was taking even taking in $21 billion, if so, how did we get $14 trillion in the hole.

“They scam dead veterans, they scam dead infants. They collect those identities and use them,” said CBS News senior correspondent John Miller. He explains that these type of people are very easy targets for skilled con-men. With the amount of online support groups out there, it’s quite easy for a skilled fraudster to come across a list of dead people with little effort. When you couple this with the fact that the IRS does not crosscheck individual tax returns against employers’ tax records in order to expedite returns and that Turbo Tax is the preferred way to file a return, you can see the potential for fraud.

CBS News Business and Economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis has a few suggestions:

  • Don’t email the IRS, they won’t email you back. If, however, you’ve emailed them, you’re more likely to supply sensitive information by email to someone falsely representing themselves as an IRS employee.
  • File your taxes immediately after receiving your W-2(s).
  • Keep your tax information on a flash drive, not on a computer.