Bogus IRS Refunds in Your Bank Account

Tax scams and fraud are nothing new, but criminals keep finding new ways to work an old game. As a result, the IRS is warning taxpayers about a new refund scam that actually waits until money is in the victims’ account before stealing funds from them.

The scenario plays out like this: thieves are stealing tax info from tax professionals, or some other means, filing a tax return on behalf of the person who has not filed yet, then waiting for the money to be deposited into that person’s account.After the money makes its way into your account, an “IRS agent” or “company agent” calls you and explains that there has been a mistake; the money was put in the “wrong account,” and they need you to return it.

In one version of this scam, the caller posing as an IRS agent informs you that you will be in violation of the law if you don’t return the money. They also threaten that your legitimate tax return will be “blacklisted” if you don’t send back the money according to their instructions.

Here’s the catch: that caller was a scammer. You send the money, usually via wire transfer or some other untraceable method of payment, but you just sent it to a criminal who’s been behind this the whole time.

So how do you fight back against this kind of scam? By following established guidelines for this kind of event. The IRS has a complete step-by-step plan for you to follow for refunds made in error, regardless of whether the money was directly deposited into your account or if you received a paper check, and regardless of whether this was a scam or an actual error.

Whatever you do, don’t spend that money! If it isn’t yours, you can still be held accountable later. More importantly, don’t be frightened or pressured into falling for a scam. Pause to think it through, then contact the proper authorities through verified channels to make it right.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Phone Hijacking: The Latest Identity Theft Threat

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