This is a topic that just doesn’t go away. But as long as money is exchanged, crooks will try to get a hold of them. Thieves are striking again and have changed their methods. Because the IRS has partnered with social security (with campaigns such as Don’t Take the Bait), the scammers are going after tax preparers stealing their clients’ data and filing fraudulent returns on their behalf.
How does it work?
The new tax scam begins with your personal information being stolen from tax prepar. The perpetrators send a phishing email to your tax accountant and if anyone opens it, the malware downloads software that helps extract client data.
The next step is to file tax returns in your name. There are many people, including me, who opt to have a tax refund deposited in their bank account. This is the epicenter of the new scam. In many cases this is the only way money gets discharged by the IRS, but it still goes to your account. That’s when you start receiving phone calls from people pretending to be calling on behalf of the IRS demanding the refund to be returned. They claim the refund was erroneous and provide you with information on where to send it back. The main goal of the caller is to convince you the deposit was made in error and you have to return it.
Have you received a refund deposit you didn’t expect?
It is possible that you receive a refund deposit, but it doesn’t automatically mean it’s a scam. Errors are made and sometimes there are legitimate refunds deposited in the wrong accounts. For once, don’t panic! Don’t make any rush decisions especially when someone is calling you and pressuring to act quickly.
Take a moment to think clearly and then act. Here are the steps, as reported by the IRS, a person can take to undo the erroneous refund:
- Get in touch with your bank and contact its Automated Clearing House (ACH) – you can request it to return the money back to the IRS.
- Call the IRS – contact the agency at 800 829 1040 and explain the reason for your phone call and why you are returning the money. This is also a chance to gather more information about your return and why the deposit happened in the first place.
- Do not drag your feet – don’t act hastily but make sure the matter is resolved. Even if you receive an erroneous refund with no fault of yours, the IRS may charge you interest on that amount.
Keep in mind that it may be necessary to close your bank account for security reasons. Talk to your bank representative to ensure this is the best and most secure option going forward. And don’t forget to inform your tax preparer – he/she may not even be aware of the breach.