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Business Consumer Alliance Blog

Tax Refund Scam Alert

irs refund check

Scammers are stealing refunds from taxpayers by depositing fraudulent tax refunds into accounts and then attempting to reclaim them. Apparently the criminals hack into tax preparers’ computers to steal the taxpayer data. They use the information to file returns and have the refunds deposited into the tax payer’s bank account. After the deposit hits, they then contact the taxpayer stating a refund has been mistakenly deposited into their account and demand that the money be returned.

While there are many variations to this scam and the scheme continues to evolve, there are a couple of ways the swindlers are carrying out the ruse. They may call pretending to be a debt collector acting on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service, claiming a fraudulent deposit was made to the account. They then request that the money be forwarded to their agency. Or, they may use automated calls to threaten the taxpayer with criminal fraud charges, arrest, or other action if they do not return the funds.

In most of these schemes, the fraudsters want to get their money as fast as possible. They typically tell their victims to make immediate payment by wiring the money through money transfer services, such as MoneyGram or Western Union. They may direct the person to put the money on a cash reload card or even a gift card, such as iTunes, and provide the registration number to them so they can get the funds. These are clear signs of a scam.

Taxpayers should be cautious if they receive any calls or contacts regarding an erroneous tax refund. If you believe you received a refund by mistake, contact the IRS directly for information and instructions on how to return the funds. There are specific procedures to do so. In addition, speak with your banking institution about the transaction. They may need to close the account. Also, contact your tax preparer immediately to advise them of the situation and alert them to the possibility of a security breach.

Have you ever been a victim of a tax scam or similar scheme? Or, do you know someone that has? Tell us about it. Sharing your experience can aid in helping others avoid falling victim to scammers and can also aid regulatory agencies in tracking down or stopping these fraudulent situations.

About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.