The IRS is warning tax filers of a new scam using personal data stolen from tax preparers’ offices. Criminals are filing fake returns using correct taxpayer names, addresses, and social security numbers and directing them toward the real taxpayers’ bank accounts. Then, they are calling taxpayers, posing as debt collectors, and telling them that their refund had been sent in error and the victim should forward the money to the criminal.
Because these fake returns contained all of the taxpayer's correct information, the IRS believes the scam started in tax-preparation offices and that unscrupulous preparers used software to capture taxpayer data.
These tips can help you avoid scams this tax season.
- File your taxes early to ensure that no one else can file a return using your personal information.
- The IRS will never call or email you to discuss your return. The agency only communicates with filers via physical mail. If you receive a call from someone that says they are from the IRS, just hang up.
- If someone from a financial institution or a debt collector calls you to discuss your tax return, ask to return their call on an official number. This will ensure that the individual on the phone is from a legitimate organization and not a scammer.
- File your tax return yourself using free or low-cost online software. If you choose to use a tax preparation service, make sure you use one that is well known, established, or registered with the IRS.
- Beware of tax preparers make unrealistic promises or guarantee huge refunds. No one can get you a bigger refund than you’re entitled to.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of identity theft or a refund scam, visit the IRS’ website for help resolve the issue.