If you're worried that crooks are using your ID to steal money from the U.S. government, it turns out you have very good reason to be concerned. A woman is going to jail for 72 months for doing just that.
The scam, which netted Elaine Monique Zavalla-Charres and her accomplices more than $400,000 in IRS tax refunds, involved the simplest deception. They sent Facebook messages telling people that they were eligible for tax refunds, even though many of them were retired or didn't work.
Dozens of victims gave the ID thieves their Social Security numbers and other information. The crooks then filled out fraudulent IRS tax forms using those stolen IDs.
The scam was good enough to trick the IRS into sending Zavalla-Charres and her accomplices hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2011 to 2013. The ID-theft victims had no idea their identities were being used in a crime against the federal government.
Unfortunately, ID theft is such a persistent problem these days that we have to be constantly on the lookout for the bad guy. Or, in this case, the bad gal.
Worse, it's so easy to imagine this happening to you. Who hasn't responded to an innocent-looking Facebook post, only to worry about it later? We so many messages from our friends and family, and their friends and family, that half the time we don't even pay attention to who we're talking to, or what we're saying.