February 26, 2018
As in past years, the IRS is warning taxpayers not to fall victim to tax-related identity theft or phishing schemes.
In a new twist recently announced by the IRS, real bank accounts are being used by cybercriminals to deposit a victim’s tax refund. A woman posing as a debt collection agency official contacts the taxpayer to say a refund was deposited in error. She then asks the taxpayer to send the money directly to her. This would never happen! The IRS does not call, or even email, taxpayers. Instead, the IRS uses the United States Postal Service (USPS) to deliver notices, etc.
This newest scam serves as a reminder that you must be alert to any unusual activity, especially if you receive a refund and have yet to file your tax return. The IRS provides guidance on what you can do to protect yourself in its
Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft
Here’s a reminder of some basic steps you can take:
- Keep updated on phishing schemes.
- Use strong, unique passwords (mix of letters, numbers and special characters or a phrase).
- Never think an email from a familiar source is safe.
- If you receive an email from a bank, agency, store, etc. asking you to open a link or attachment, or it includes a threat to close your account, go directly to the source and sign in to your account. Never open the attachment or click on the link.
- If an email contains a link, hover your cursor over the link to see the web address (URL) destination. If it’s not a URL you recognize or if it’s an abbreviated URL, don’t open it.
- Use security software to help defend against malware, viruses and known phishing sites and update the software automatically.
- Send suspicious tax-related phishing emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Agency also advises taxpayers to 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.