It’s tax season, and for scammers that means millions of taxpayers they can potentially dupe out of refunds or scare into making irrational moves. Here is what you need to know about tax return scams and how to avoid them.
How the scams play out:
In a tax return scam, a fraudster steals a taxpayer’s personal information and files a fake tax return on their behalf. The scammer will direct the refund to be deposited into the taxpayer’s checking account. After the refund is deposited, the scammer will call the victim, impersonating the IRS and claiming the refund was mistakenly inflated. They will instruct the victim to return the alleged extra funds via gift card or wire transfer. Of course, this money will go directly into the scammer’s pockets.
In another variation of a tax return scam, a fraudster steals a taxpayer’s personal information and files a fake tax return on their behalf, as described in the first scenario. However, instead of directing the refund to be deposited into the victim’s account, the scammer has the funds deposited into their own account. When the taxpayer tries to file a legitimate return, the IRS will inform them they have already filed one – and collected the refund.
Unfortunately, tax return scams are relatively easy to pull off. Scammers only need to get their hands onto a victim’s name, Social Security number and date of birth. All other information, including income and employment details, can be fabricated.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to limit your vulnerability to tax return scams. Here is how to keep your money and your information safe this tax season:
- File early. This gives scammers less time to use stolen information.
- E-file with care. Only use a secure computer to file an electronic tax return. Do not use public Wi-Fi to e-file your taxes.
- Keep your tax returns in a secure location. Remove your returns from your computer after you have filed, and store hard copies of all tax forms in a safe place.
- Never download links or attachments from unverified sources. These may contain malware, which can infect your computer and deliver your information right into the scammer’s hands.
- Never share personal information with an unknown contact over the phone or online. Personal information should always be kept personal.
If you’ve been targeted:
If you receive a phone call or letter from someone claiming to represent the IRS and informing you that you owe tax money, you can verify the claim by calling 1-800-829-1040. Emails allegedly sent by the IRS are scams, as the IRS does not reach out to taxpayers via email.
If you haven’t received your tax refund within one month of filing, you can check your refund’s status on the IRS webpage. If the site shows that your refund was issued but you haven’t received it, you may be the victim of a tax return scam and identity theft. Alert the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.
To help protect yourself from fraudulent activity, make sure to utilize your Benefits Plus® checking account with SeaComm! Once you upgrade your basic checking to Benefits Plus®, you will gain access to a full range of fraud and identity-theft protection services, including fraud alerts, lost document recovery services, 90-day Purchase Protection, and much more. Click here for more information, or stop by your local SeaComm branch to enroll.
For complete information, terms, conditions and exclusions please visit www.benefits-plus.org or call 866-329-7587.
Stay informed with SeaComm’s Fraud Center. As your credit union, we want to keep you and your finances safe. That’s why we created our Fraud Center, which includes valuable resources to help educate and empower our members to protect their assets and identities. Click here to get started!