Criminals file fraudulent IRS returns and later ask taxpayers to hand over tax refunds supposedly issued in error.
Only a few days into the filing season, the IRS has already identified a new scam that began with cybercriminals stealing data from computers and filing fraudulent tax returns.
In a new twist, the fraudulent returns in a few cases used the taxpayers’ real bank accounts for the deposit. A woman posing as a debt collection agency official then contacted the taxpayers to say a refund was deposited in error and asked the taxpayers to forward the money to her.
Thieves know it is more difficult to identify and halt fraudulent tax returns when they are using real client data such as income, dependents, credits and deductions. Generally, criminals find alternative ways to get the fraudulent refunds delivered to themselves rather than the real taxpayers.
Taxpayers who receive a direct deposit refund that they did not request should take the following steps:
- Contact the Automated Clearing House (ACH) department of the bank/financial institution where the direct deposit was received and have them return the refund to the IRS.
- Call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 (individual) or 800-829-4933 (business) to explain why the direct deposit is being returned.
- Keep in mind interest may accrue on the erroneous refund.