Latest in record-setting number of data breaches and hacking events.
The April tax filing deadline is here for US consumers, and that generally means one thing. No, not a panicked, last-minute line at the post office to get that important postmark date (although that certainly happens), but rather an uptick in the numbers of reported tax-based scams and hacking events.
Thanks to the record-setting numbers of data breaches, hacking events, and compromised consumer records each year, as compiled by the Identity Theft Resource Center, there are hundreds of millions of complete consumer identities floating around out there. That has resulted in higher than ever numbers of tax return fraud and stolen tax refunds. In recent years, the Internal Revenue Service has fought back against this kind of fraud with new policies that help flag suspicious tax returns.
Simple, but effective
Of course, that just means scammers have had to evolve in order to stay ahead. A new tax scam that has already been widely reported this year involves criminals putting money into your bank account instead of withdrawing it. How does that benefit the thief? It’s simple. They file a tax return using your stolen information, and the refund is electronically deposited into your bank account. You haven’t filed your return yet, so you might not even notice the funds go in.
Then you receive a call from an IRS agent telling you that the funds transfer was an accident. Of course, the agent is actually the scammer, but when you’re told that failure to return the money equates to felony theft, you’re all too happy to comply. you return the money using the payment method specified–typically a wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or even iTunes gift card–and then go on to file your legitimate return.
Things get a little weird when the actual IRS calls you and wants that money back, too, or when they reject your genuine tax return because “you’ve” already filed one in your name. In some cases, the victim returned the money (to the scammer) only to have the IRS realize the refund was a mistake and deduct it back from the taxpayer’s bank account.
Alert the IRS
In order to avoid this kind of scam, consumers are urged to file as early as possible (well, remember that for next year), and to alert the IRS if their identities have been stolen in the past. That way, the agency can be on the lookout for fraudulent or duplicate returns in your name.