The IRS has launched an investigation after tax returns for hundreds of people were found in the middle of a Philadelphia street.
Yvette Santiago told NBC10 her husband spotted hundreds of papers in the street outside their home on the 1900 block of East Cheltenham Avenue Saturday morning.
“He thought it was garbage,” Santiago said. “But then he said, ‘Oh my God, look!’”
What he initially believed was trash was actually tax returns full of personal information.
“You have the name, social security and date of birth,” Santiago said.
Santiago showed the documents to NBC10’s Christine Maddela who took them to local accountant Michael Falco. Falco told NBC10 the documents were actual tax returns, showing where people work, their income and even information about their children.
“For the people who have documents here this could turn into a nightmare,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. This is unbelievable."
Falco, a former FBI agent who specialized as an accounting technician and has done thousands of tax returns, said he immediately noticed several suspicious things about the documents. The most glaring being the fact that several different names were filing from the same address.
"That's a red flag," Falco said. "That's typical fraud."
NBC10 reached out to two of the companies listed as the tax preparer on the documents, one based in Philadelphia and another based in Massachusetts. Spokespeople for both companies said they never filed the returns and didn't even have any clients by the names that were listed. NBC10 also reached out to the employers listed on the documents and were told that the people listed did not work for them.
"The fact that it's so early in the filing season and we see these, that's another clue that there could be fraud because as I said, if people are going to file a fraudulent return, they want to do it as soon as possible so they do it before the legitimate person does it," Falco said.
Last year the IRS paid out over $5 billion in fraudulent refunds, according to Falco.
An official with the IRS picked up the documents from NBC10 Monday night. They are currently investigating.