The IRS has issued some warnings recently about a new scam which seems especially on the rise with more tax professionals having more client data online than ever before.
The scammers file a fraudulent tax return – but include the taxpayers’ real bank account information (or if they don’t file for electronic deposit of their refunds, the taxpayers’ real address to which a refund check may be sent).
Then, the criminals contact the taxpayer, telling them that the refund was a mistake and they proceed to give the taxpayer instructions on how to return that mistaken refund. And this is how they get the money — the instructions they give are actually such that the taxpayer who follows them is sending the money to the scammers, rather than back to the IRS.
They use a variety of potential means of pressuring the taxpayers into sending the money, including claiming that they are from the IRS and that the taxpayer will be charged with criminal fraud, an arrest warrant, and even going so far as to claim that the police are on their way at that very moment!
The IRS has asked tax professionals to step up security on their computer systems to help minimize the chance that these criminals are getting the information for this scam from the tax pro’s computers.
Taxpayers who receive a refund like this are encouraged to follow the steps outlined by the IRS in “Topic Number: 161 – Returning an Erroneous Refund” <https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc161>
(If the refund was a paper check which hasn’t been cashed yet, VOID it. If the check has been cashed, send a check or money order to the IRS — get the information from the link above. And if it was a direct ACH electronic deposit to your bank, contact the Automated Clearing House department of your bank and have them directly correct the error by returning the money to the IRS. Do NOT send the money anywhere else and if you have any questions, do NOT follow the advice of anyone who called you. Call the IRS yourself, directly.)
For more information:
The IRS’s “Scam Alert: IRS Urges Taxpayers to Watch Out for Erroneous Refunds”: <https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/scam-alert-irs-urges-taxpayers-to-watch-out-for-erroneous-refunds-beware-of-fake-calls-to-return-money-to-a-collection-agency>
And lastly, the IRS publishes an excellent page regarding steps to take if you are concerned you may be a victim of identity theft (which includes people filing false tax returns using your information):
Be careful out there!