The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has warned taxpayers that thieves have a new twist to an old tax refund scheme. According to the agency, the number of victims who have fallen for the scam increased from several hundred to thousands in just a few days.
- Taxpayers are asked to return any funds they discover in their bank accounts to the IRS and secure their computer systems.
- IRS issued the first warning against the scam earlier this month, but few taxpayers seem to be aware of it.
The IRS Criminal Investigation division has reportedly launched an investigation into the issue. Investigators noted that scammers steal taxpayer data from the IRS, credit reporting agencies, or other tax professionals, and submit fake refunds on those taxpayers’ behalf, without them knowing it.
Next, scammers use ingenious ways of reclaiming the funds from the victims’ bank accounts. The scam is not new, but the recent scheme has different versions which make it look new.
Scammers Claiming the Erroneous Refunds
In one scenario, scammers contact their victims posing as debt collection agents, saying that the IRS has deposited a refund in their bank account by error. Taxpayers are then asked to forward the refund to the criminals’ bank accounts.
In another scenario, the taxpayer is called by a bot which claims that it is calling on behalf of the IRS and threatens that taxpayer with fraud charges if he or she doesn’t deposit the erroneous refund in a specific bank account.
The taxpayer can be harassed, threatened with an arrest warrant, or even “blacklisted” until he or she hand over the money the thieves have worked so hard to get. The bot gives the unknowing taxpayer a telephone number to learn the details of a return.
The IRS is also asking other tax agencies to boost their security protocols to prevent further taxpayer data leaks.
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