The amount of money that moves around come tax time means the emergence of scams is inevitable. So even though many people are expecting tax refunds to hit their bank account over the next couple of months, be wary of unexpected ones. These unexpected returns are not a surprise windfall, and instead the start of a potentially large issue.
There are many different versions of this scam, but it starts with a fraudulent tax return being submitted, and scammers then using the victim’s real bank account for the refund deposit. The criminals then contact the taxpayer with one a variety of ways to reclaim this erroneous refund.
I don’t feel the need to really get into the ways the scammers try to get this money, for the way to halt any issues instead comes as soon as the mistaken money is deposited. As soon as it is noticed, contact the bank and have them return the refund to the IRS. Then contact the IRS and tell them why the money is being returned.
This also seems to be a time to mention that some taxpayers won’t know that someone filed a fraudulent return in their name until they try to electronically file the legitimate return. When a return bearing the same social security is on file, the IRS will reject the second one. This then requires filing a paper return along with an identity theft affidavit.
Now these aren’t the most fun things to talk about, for even if you follow all the rules as you should following any identity theft issue, it can have long-ranging consequences and take lots of time to try to set right. Just thinking about it is scary. Talking about it is good, though, for the more vigilant we remain, the more we stand a better chance of not becoming a victim.
And thankfully, this increasing awareness seems to be working.
Last week, the IRS reported that tax-related identity theft declined for the second straight year. This is good enough news, but it is amazing that they saw a 40 percent decline since 2016, a rather significant mark. Furthermore, the agency reported that since 2015, tax-related identity theft has fallen by more than two-thirds.
The overall numbers are still not negligible – 242,000 identity theft reports reached the IRS in 2016 – but the drops are huge. That number was 677,000 in 2015, after all.
There is no reason to think, though, that it will ever stop. After all, the IRS reported it recovered $204 million in fraudulent refunds last year, and it is impossible to keep out criminal acts when that much money is involved. But again, that number was $852 million in 2015, so things are improving.
Personally, this is also a moment when I can step back and be thankful that my clients trust me with their personal information and finances. That is a pact that I do not take lightly, and we take pride in doing everything we can to ensure your privacy.
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