April 12, 2023 | fraud--identity-protection
IRS Refund Scams
It’s tax season, which means you’re probably hard at work gathering documents and preparing to file your tax return. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one working hard this time of year. Scammers are, too, and they’re taking advantage of those hoping to earn a refund after filing.
Scammers are always finding new ways to target unsuspecting victims and steal their hard-earned money, and one of the latest schemes involves duping people into thinking they're getting a text from the IRS about a refund or rebate.
What is an IRS refund scam?
The typical IRS refund scam starts with a text message that appears to be from the IRS or a government agency, informing the recipient that they are eligible for a tax refund or rebate. The message may include official-looking logos and language to make it seem more authentic.
The text will usually ask the recipient to click on a link to claim their refund, which takes them to a fake website that is designed to look like an official IRS page. The website will prompt the victim to enter their personal information, such as their name, Social Security number, and bank account details, under the guise of processing their refund.
Once the scammer has obtained this information, they can use it to steal your identity or to access your bank accounts to steal money.
How do scammers know I’ve filed my taxes recently?
There’s a small window in the year in which most people file their taxes— typically between February and April. Because of this, it’s easy for scammers to guess when people are filing their returns and strategically send out their spammy messages.
So if you get a scam text— and actually did file your taxes recently— don’t panic. This does not mean that your information has been compromised or that your tax return has landed in the wrong hands. It simply means that a scammer has correctly estimated when people may have filed their taxes.
How to Protect Yourself from the IRS Tax Refund Scam
Protecting yourself from IRS text scams requires a combination of vigilance and knowledge. Here are some tips to help you avoid falling victim to these scams.
1. Be wary of unsolicited text messages.
If you receive a text message claiming to be from the IRS or a government agency that you did not initiate contact with, be cautious. It's important to note that the IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers through text messages, social media, or email. If you receive a message like this— no matter what they are saying— it's likely a scam and you should not click on any links or provide any personal information.
2. Check the source.
If you do receive a message, look at the sender's phone number or email address. Scammers may use phone numbers or email addresses that are similar to official IRS contacts but with slight variations.
Visit irs.gov for official phone numbers and communication methods.
3. Don't click on links.
Be wary of any links in unsolicited text messages, even if they appear to be legitimate. Clicking on these links can take you to a fake website that is designed to steal your personal information or install malware on your device.
4. Don't provide personal information.
The IRS will never ask for personal or financial information through text messages, email, or social media. If you're unsure whether a message is legitimate, contact the IRS directly to verify.
5. Report suspicious activity.
If you receive a suspicious text message or believe you've been targeted by a scammer, report it to the Federal Trade Commission and the IRS. This can help prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.
What to Do If You’ve Fallen Victim to an IRS Scam
If you have mistakenly fallen victim to an IRS text scam, there are several steps you can take to minimize the damage and protect yourself:
- Contact the IRS: If you've given out personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account information, to a scammer, contact the IRS immediately. You can report the scam to the IRS at email@example.com.
- Contact your financial institutions: If you've given out your bank account or credit card information, contact your financial institutions as soon as possible to report the fraud and freeze your accounts.
- File a police report: If you've lost money as a result of the scam, file a police report with your local law enforcement agency. This can help you dispute any fraudulent charges and potentially recover your funds.
- Monitor your accounts: Keep a close eye on your bank and credit card statements, as well as your credit reports, for any signs of unauthorized activity. For extra protection, sign up for banking alerts for all of your accounts and put credit freezes on your credit reports. If you notice anything suspicious, report it immediately.
By taking these steps, you can help minimize the damage from the scam and protect yourself from further fraud.
How to See the Status of Your Refund
According to the IRS, the vast majority of Americans receive their tax refunds via direct deposit. This is a safe and secure way to receive your refund quickly, as it usually takes less time than receiving a paper check in the mail.
If you're wondering when you can expect your tax refund to arrive, you can check the status of your refund on the IRS website using the Where’s My Refund? tool. All you need is your Social Security number, filing status, and the exact amount of your refund. The IRS updates the status of refunds once a day, so you can check back regularly for the most up-to-date information. By using direct deposit and checking the status of your refund, you can ensure that you receive your refund as quickly and securely as possible.
Be Vigilant and Keep Your Info Secure
The IRS refund scam is a dangerous and deceptive tactic that preys on unsuspecting taxpayers. The scammers try to trick people into providing personal and financial information, which can lead to identity theft and other types of fraud. However, by staying vigilant and following the tips outlined in this article, you can protect yourself and keep your information secure.
Remember, the IRS will never initiate contact via text message or email, and they will never ask for personal information— like bank account information— in an unsolicited message. If you receive a suspicious message or call, always verify the legitimacy before providing any information. Stay informed and stay safe!
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