As if tax payers don’t have enough to worry about, there is a new income tax refund scam that the IRS is warning filers about. This time, however, the scam is likely originating out of the office of your tax preparer. The gist of the scam is that identity thieves are hacking into the data systems of a tax preparer using an email phishing scam. For example, if an attachment in a scam email is opened, hypothetically let’s say at an H & R Block office, malicious computer viruses can insert themselves into the data program which generates your tax return. The identity thief would then have access to your personal information that could allow the thief to file a tax return pretending to be you before you are able to file your actual tax return. The really scary part is that you will have no idea this has occurred until you are contacted by the IRS and advised the tax return you just filed is a duplicate of another tax return that was filed first.
How Do Thieves Get Hold of Your Tax Refund Money?
Given that this scam is just beginning to heat up as 2017 tax returns are now being filed, one of the more important questions is how are the thieves getting the tax refund money? The twist is the refund is actually being direct deposited into the correct taxpayer’s bank account. Remember the thief is originally stealing all of the actual information for the taxpayer, including legitimate bank accounts listed for direct deposit of the refunds. The thief is then contacting the taxpayer directly pretending to be the IRS and advising the refund was deposited into the taxpayer’s bank account by mistake. The taxpayer is then given information to forward the tax refund money directly back to the thief.
How Can You Protect Yourself from This Scam?
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to be on high alert if you are contacted by anyone purporting to be the IRS stating your tax refund was deposited by mistake. DO NOT send the tax refund money to anyone without first disconnecting from the contact advising you to do so and then contacting the IRS directly yourself. If this is a legitimate request, the IRS will be able to advise you of that in your direct call or contact with them. A second important way to protect yourself is to thoroughly question how your tax preparer protects your personal information listed in their data base. If the tax preparer cannot provide you with a satisfactory answer, you may wish to rethink having your tax return prepared by them.
If you are considering a filing for bankruptcy relief and wish to consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney about your options, please contact one of our locations nearest you in Alabama, Mississippi or Tennessee for a free, confidential consultation.
Carla M. Handy is the Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Gadsden and Anniston, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law. She has been helping families navigate consumer bankruptcy cases since 1994.Read her full bio here.