Tax scams are nothing new – and every year they are becoming more elaborate and sneaky.
Whether it is a phone call or an email- it can be very scary and cause panic. The important thing to remember is that the IRS will send a letter, not an email and they will never call. However, people still fall for the scams time and time again. Recently, the IRS released a warning to taxpayers about an old scam with a scary, consequential new twist.
Learn everything about this new scam and how to deal with it here:
What Was the Old Scam?
Scammers would only call unsuspecting consumers. They would claim that you have an outstanding tax debt which had to be paid within X amount of days. If you refused to pay, they claim you would be arrested. Even if a consumer knows they do not have any outstanding debts, the calls can be frightening and intimidating to receive.
How Has It Changed?
Because most taxpayers have become aware of the scam, scammers had to evolve. Cybercriminals now have been able to steal data from tax professionals. This includes important information such as routing and bank account numbers. These criminals then file fraudulent tax returns which get deposited into taxpayers’ actual bank accounts.
This new scam has 2 versions- the first is the criminals still contact the victim. They claim they are from a debt collection agency and that the refunds were an error. The ploy is that the IRS demands the refund back and they have been assigned to collect it. The scam is believable because the taxpayers see money was actually deposited and they know it is not theirs.
The second version is much more intimidating. In this instance, the victim gets a harassing, pre-recorded message about the refund. The person in the recording claims to be from the IRS and threatens the victim with arrest and criminal charges of fraud. They also claim that the victim’s social security number will be “blacklisted,” as well. The important thing to remember is that the IRS would never call you, especially about something so serious. The scammer leaves the victim with a fake case number and a phone number to call to “return” the money.
What to Do if You Are Victimized
If you think you might be a victim of this scam, it is important to remain calm. The money does have to be returned but to the actual IRS, not the scammers. Visit IRS.gov and follow the prompts for Topic 161. You may also call an agent to confirm it is a scam and they can help you from there. It is important to also contact the Automated Clearing House if the refund was deposited directly into your bank account. In addition, you still need to contact the IRS to explain why the refund has been returned.
If you received the fraudulent refund as a check, you still must return it to the IRS. You should write “void” where the check would normally be endorsed. Send the check along with a letter explaining the situation to the IRS location listed on the check. It is important you make a copy of both the check and letter for your records and return it via certified mail.
How to Avoid Scams in the Future
A great way to avoid being scammed in the future is by filing your taxes early. Procrastinating on your return gives scammers the opportunity to obtain your information and file your return before you do. Early filers not only can avoid scams; they are less likely to make mistakes which could lead to a scam. If you and your tax professional are in a time crunch, it may be easy to misfile something or have another type of error. These errors could have serious implications.
You can also monitor your taxes through an IRS online account. You can monitor your records online while you are still assembling your return. Click here to set up an account. These accounts are very helpful during tax seasons and can give taxpayers peace of mind.
Avoid using public Wi-Fi when checking important financial information such as bank accounts or shopping online. Public Wi-Fi is a hunting ground for hackers and other cybercriminals. Once one account is compromised, all of your other accounts are at risk as well. You can also avoid being hacked by regularly changing passwords and using more complex passwords.
How to Rebuild Once You Have Been Scammed
It is important you freeze all accounts and change all financial information on file immediately. Whether it is any subscriptions, online stores, bank accounts, etc. you don’t know which account numbers may also have been compromised. Protect yourself by assuming all have been compromised and proceed from there.
You may also want to consider obtaining a new Social Security number as well. If you have received a false tax refund, it’s possible your entire identity is at risk. This could lead to havoc on your personal loans, false credit cards being taken out in your name, etc. Avoid a headache by completely going through all aspects of your financial life and making sure there are no loose ends.
Work with the IRS and your banks to figure out what is what. Whether you start to see false charges or are simply dealing with the false return, be patient and work with those who try to work with you. Getting angry and lashing out at employees can only make the situation worse and more stressful for all parties involved.
Do you have outstanding tax debt or other debts you are struggling to deal with? Need more advice on dealing with taxes and other financial situations? Call us today or visit our website! Tayne Law Group, P.C. has been voted the leading debt consolidation firm four years in a row and is more than happy to help you resolve your financial troubles.