Everyone loves getting a refund on their taxes, so it’s not surprising that scammers have taken notice and made the cash-back earnings their newest target. According to Money, the IRS issued a statement this week claiming that “the number of potential taxpayer victims [of the tax refund fraud] jumped from a few hundred to several thousand in just days.” It’s time to take notice.
The scam works like this: The thieves use phishing emails to steal your personal information — like your Social Security number and bank account numbers — and use your data to file a fake tax return. That return generates a refund, which is then deposited into your bank account. Those same scammers then call you, falsely claiming to be IRS employees and state that the refund in your account was a mistake. The final step involves — you guessed it — the scammers explaining how you can send them that “incorrect” refund.
If you’ve been the target of this kind of scam, act now. It might be tempting to see if you can finagle it so that big chunk of change stays in your bank account. It won’t. Visit the IRS’ site for step-by-step directions on how to return the refund and what to do next.
As for prevention, the best way to keep these scammers at bay is to file early so the IRS already has your return on file. Also, you should step up your cyber security. Set new, strong passwords for all your accounts. If you receive a curious link in an email, don’t click on it. For more tips, check the IRS’ anti-cyber theft tips page.