IRS: Watch out for erroneous refunds

Old scam with new twist surfacing

SAN ANTONIO – IRS officials are warning taxpayers to watch out for erroneous refunds landing in their bank accounts. It's part of a new twist on an old scam.

"These are going to be healthy amounts, thousands of dollars," said Michael Devine, with the IRS San Antonio office.

According to IRS officials, criminals are targeting tax professionals and stealing client data. The crooks then use that data to create and file fraudulent tax returns.

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"Normally, what they'd do is have that refund go back to one of their bank accounts," Devine said. "But the new twist is they are actually using the taxpayer's bank account."

Next, comes the phone call. In one version, the scammer poses as a debt collector on behalf of the IRS, who says the money was deposited in error and must be forwarded to the collection agency.

In another version, a robocaller threatens to arrest or blacklist the taxpayer's Social Security number.

"Whatever they can do to get the money out of the Treasury to someone they can steal it from, that's what they are going to do," Divine said.

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The scam appears to be growing from hundreds of potential victims to thousands in just a few days.

Using the taxpayer's actual bank account may make the scenario more believable, and the fact that the caller knows exactly how much money has been deposited may also help convince the taxpayer that it is true.

Divine said anyone who receives an unexpected deposit or check from the IRS should be wary and check the IRS website for detailed instructions on how to return the money.

RESOURCE: Tips on avoiding tax-related identity theft

IRS officials would like to remind taxpayers that the agency does not call or email people.  

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