The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Tuesday warned taxpayers that of a new tax scam that involves a claim by the scammers that the IRS has erroneously deposited a refund in the taxpayer’s bank account. Scammers then use various methods to reclaim the refund from the taxpayer.
The twist to this new scam is that rather than using stolen personal information to file a fraudulent return, the scammers have the refund deposited to the real taxpayer’s account and then demand that the taxpayer repay the erroneous refund.
The IRS described two versions of this scam. In the first, scammers pose as debt collection agency officials acting on IRS instructions to say that the refund was deposited in error and asking taxpayers to forward the money to the collection agency.
The second version is a bit more complicated:
[T]he taxpayer who received the erroneous refund gets an automated call with a recorded voice saying he is from the IRS and threatens the taxpayer with criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant and a “blacklisting” of their Social Security Number. The recorded voice gives the taxpayer a case number and a telephone number to call to return the refund.
The scammers are using stolen personal information to file a fraudulent return, but instead of having the refund sent to their own accounts the refunds are being directed to the taxpayer’s own bank account. The scam preys on people’s natural wariness when it comes interacting with the IRS.
The IRS urges taxpayers to follow proper procedures for returning an erroneous refund and lists the steps to take if the phony refund was a direct deposit or a paper check that has either been cashed or not. An IRS publication titled Tax Topic Number 161 — Returning an Erroneous Refund provides complete details on how to handle erroneous refunds. The press release also provides guidance.