Tax Fraud Can Happen With Anyone's Data…Even Yours

Fraud prevention isn't just about building a wall: It's about making sure you have the right bricks.

During tax season, anyone who sees your pay stubs or tax forms could put them to nefarious use, and could do so without you being aware. As former clients and relatives of one California tax preparer were shocked to find out recently, the stability of their "brick walls" against fraud were filled with weak spots.

Imelda Sanchez of California confessed to using the names and personal data of other people to file fraudulent tax returns. She also used other falsified tax documents to apply for a loan worth more than $1.5 million. Her sentencing is scheduled for May, when she could be slapped with a prison sentence upwards of 30 years or more. As a tax preparer, she was in a unique position to set this plan in motion. Sanchez could also be given a fine around $1.25 million – just a touch under the amount of money she tried to steal. 

In this case, the criminal ended up in cuffs. But tax fraud like this happens all the time, and the bad guys don't always get caught. 

Doing taxes can be a headache for anyone, but as this incident shows, it can also be a time of great risk. There are many different types of identity theft, and while some thieves are content simply to swipe your credit card numbers or bank passwords, others have bigger goals. Someone could use fraud to try and beat the system – with your information.

It's important that you ensure your information and the corporate information you're responsible for is in the hands of someone trustworthy. Anti-fraud training can help a company be prepared to identify the weak points of their security fortresses before it all falls down. 

John Sileo is a fraud prevention expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.