(By Joe Koletar) It is a question the Romans asked of themselves two thousand years ago, but still seems pertinent today. The subtitle of the news article cited below reads: “Corrections Workers Convicted of Using Inmates’ Social Security Numbers to Get Refunds.” With the recent breakout in an Upstate New York prison and the charging of a prison staff member of assisting, the question arises again.

To recycle an old line –“Who can you trust?” Apparently, at least some watchdogs are still awake and performing their duties, but even they seem to come into play only after the damage has been done.

The article, based on a 2014 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, found that false returns using prisoners’ Social Security numbers had “surged” to 137,000 in 2012, up from only 37,000 five years earlier. If 137,000 alarms you as a taxpayer, does only 37,000 make you feel warm and cozy? What is going on? Is anybody in charge of this boat? Have we gotten to the point where our most effective response is to let the watchdogs tell us years later the number of dead and wounded?

Were the issue only limited to false tax returns. The article also reports phony credit card accounts, and unpaid medical, energy, and insurance bills. The IRS reports that attempted false claims alone amounted to $1B. Luckily, only about $70M was lost, but this is just the IRS, and not other forms of identity theft fraud. But all this begs the issue. Why must we only try to “block?” Are we not treating the symptom, and not the disease? The “disease” in this instance is corrupt corrections personnel. The article notes that a shift clerk at one facility claimed $750,000 in false tax returns, and received $176,000 in refunds. The clerk had access to 25,000 files on current and former inmates.

In the “you are not to believe this” category, one corrections official is reported to have declined to respond to requests for more information on this issue, citing “security concerns.”

Is this dark comedy, or a remake of “Alice In Wonderland?” Either way, the question is what can or will you do about it.

The ball is in your court. If you believe “that’s just the way things are,” you have every right to do so. To a point. You are not only wasting your money, but mine also; and millions of others.

If you do not like the way things seem to be going, use every legal means to change it through reform advocacy. If you choose not to, you have made a career change. You have moved from being a “victim” to being a passive accomplice.

Your choice.

(Observations based on “Tax Fraud Cases Target Prison Staff,” by Joe Palazzolo, The Wall Street Journal, 3/13/15, page A-5.)

Copyright 2015

Joseph W. Koletar

Join us for more insights into behavioral forensics (behind fraud and similar white collar crimes) from the authors of A.B.C.s of Behavioral Forensics (Wiley, 2013): Sri Ramamoorti, Ph. D., Daven Morrison, M.D., and Joe Koletar, D.P.A., along with Vic Hartman, J.D. These distinguished experts come from the disciplines of psychology, medicine, accounting, law, and law enforcement to explain and prevent fraud. Because we are inspired to bring to light and address the fraud problems in today’s headlines, we encourage our readers to come back and revisit us regularly at BringingFreudtoFraud.com.

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