In the latest tax scam, crooks are depositing falsely claimed tax refunds into taxpayers’ own bank accounts, according to an alert from the Internal Revenue Service.
It’s a “new twist” on an old scam and it is spreading quickly, according to the IRS update Tuesday of an alert first issued Feb. 2. The update went out after officials saw a few hundred cases of the scam grow to several thousand cases in a few days.
This scam starts like many others: Crooks steal taxpayers’ information from tax preparers and use it to file a false tax return in those taxpayers’ names. The return uses false information to qualify and claim a tax refund.
Instead of sending the money to accounts the crooks control, this scam sends the money to the bank accounts of the taxpayers whose information was stolen, the IRS said.
“Thieves are then using various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers,” the agency said.
In one version, the IRS said, scammers call and pose as a collection agency working for the IRS. They tell the taxpayer about an erroneous refund sent to their account and ask them to forward the mistakenly deposited funds to the collection agency.
Another version of the scam uses automatic or robo calls to send a recorded message. It threatens the taxpayer with criminal charges, arrest and “a ‘blacklisting’ of their Social Security” numbers, the IRS said. The recording then provides a phone number for the victim to call to return the erroneous refund.
A victim of such scams who sees an erroneous refund appear in his account should contact his tax preparer immediately, the IRS said. Also, he also should talk with his bank or other financial institution where the account is because the account may need to be closed.
Returning the money to the IRS must follow what the agency called “established procedures” described in Topic Number 161 – Returning an Erroneous Refund – Paper Check or Direct Deposit, the alert said.
Individuals who become the victim in these scams also may call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Businesses should call 800-829-4933.