Tax scams where someone files a fake return for you and puts money on your bank account

Yes, you read that right.

This is the new type of scam going around, and the later you file your taxes, the higher the chances of you being targeted with a “refund” scam.

What happens in this scenario?

  • Mostly, scammers steal personal information by hacking your tax preparer’s account or buying stolen data. By using fake phishing emails and spoofing email addresses, scammers can do this relatively easily.
  • Then, they use that data to file inaccurate tax returns in your name and using your SSN. If you hadn’t already filed your taxes for the year, IRS assumes that this is your real tax return and issues refunds.
  • The tax refund money magically shows up in the victim’s real bank account or as a check on their doorstep.
  • Then begin the scam calls. Scammers, posing as “IRS officers” or law enforcement or even debt collection agencies, call victims and use a combination of fear mongering, apology calls for mistakenly refunding your account and even threats of criminal charges to force the victim to refund money right on the spot.

Sometimes, scammers also use automated calls claiming to be the IRS where they threaten victims that their SSN will be blacklisted if they don’t call back a specific number they provide in the message.

Once again, the unaware consumer goes through a series of harassment and losses because of bogus returns filed by scammers.

What should I do if I receive an erroneous refund?

Unfortunately, this scam is even worse than the previous one because scammers have gone through great lengths to file a bogus return on your behalf. The money does need to be refunded, but directly to the IRS.

If your refund was a direct deposit:

  • Contact the bank where the refund was deposited and have them reverse the refund through the exact channel it came to you.
  • Notify the IRS at 1–800–829–1040 (for non-business refunds) or 1–800–829–4933(if you’re a business) and let them know that you have been a victim of a tax scam.
  • Call your bank! Since scammers got access to your information, other information may also be compromised.

If your refund was a check:

  • If you haven’t yet cashed it, void the check and send it back to IRS with an explanation.
  • If you’ve cashed it already, submit a personal check or money order addressed to the Internal Revenue Service and send it with an explanation letter.

More details on how to return an erroneous refund here.

Even though you are the victim, you may accrue interest charges on the refund so make sure you call the IRS to notify them of your situation.

IRS may be able to waive your interest due to reasonable cause or first time penalty abatement.

Final words of advice:

As much doom and gloom this is, being aware and spreading the word to your friends and families will greatly help reduce such scams.

Solutions like Harvest Platform or Mint.com can help with staying on top of what’s happening with your bank accounts. The best remedy, however, is to stay alert and spread the word.

Please share the article so that more consumers can stay vigilant. #staywoke

  • Writer’s note: We will be exposing more cases of tax scams in our upcoming articles. If you want examples of explanation letter to IRS or how to request decrease in penalties due to your situation, write to us on Twitter (@platformharvest) and Instagram @growmyharvest).

Disclaimer: We are not tax experts and the information provided is purely for educational purposes. For tax advice, visit a licensed tax professional with good IT security. Our mission is to simply alert consumers about predatory practices.


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