Criminals are out in full force this tax filing season hoping to steal your Social Security number and collect a refund in your name faster than you can say "standard deduction."
The crime that law enforcement officials call SIRF — Stolen Identity Refund Fraud — remains pervasive despite a massive, multi-agency crackdown that has been going on for years.
"It's one of the most lucrative ways that thieves can monetize our identity credentials," said Eva Velasquez, president of the California-based Identity Theft Resource Center.
Armed with little more than your name, birthdate and Social Security number, a crook can file a fraudulent tax return and collect a refund. Then, when you go to file your legitimate return, the IRS blocks you because its records show your return has already been filed.
"This method of fraud is so attractive because it's so easy to perpetrate," Velasquez said in an interview with CNBC's "American Greed."
"These thieves don't really have to have a high skill set in hacking or know how to code or even really understand how all of those mechanisms work."
No wonder SIRF was a favorite crime of serial fraudster Chimene Onyeri, whose arsenal included skimming credit and debit card numbers — financial schemes that allowed the 32-year-old aspiring rapper to rake in big money with seemingly no risk.
"He painted himself as Robin Hood. But I think the evidence showed he was just a hood," Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Sofer told "American Greed."
Onyeri turned violent only when it looked like he might go to prison for his crimes. That's when he tried to kill the Texas judge who was preparing to sentence him, pumping four bullets into her at point blank range in her driveway as her teenage son watched in horror.