The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that it sent out nearly three million fraudulent refunds to con artists last year. And, according reports from the Government Accountability Office, it cost tax payers $5.2 billion. During the period of filing for tax refunds thieves go around stealing individual’s identifications such as their social security number and date of birth. Persons may wonder how is that possible, where did they get all these information from, but it is so easy to purchase identities these days from the right person, namely, hospitals, schools, banks and many other institutions in which persons share their social security number and date of birth with. Also, the thieves collect information by calling or sending emails to potential victims, claiming they are from the IRS and trick them into giving them their personal and financial information, by threatening the potential victims with arrest and legal action.
These thieves use the given information to their advantage by filling out fraudulent tax return W-2 forms on behalf of innocent victims before they do so themselves and collect refund checks from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
All these master-minds need are a laptop or a smart phone with the correct app, internet access to a tax preparation online website, a made up employer’s information and the amount of money that was earned. All these information are falsified except your social security number and your date of birth.
These thieves when filling out these bogus forms electronically ask for the check to be sent to an address of their choice, wire transfer to a bank account, or tell the IRS to load the money onto a prepaid debit card. These prepaid debit cards can be bought at any convenience stores around without having to provide up front an identification card. The money which is loaded onto these prepaid cards can be used like any regular visa credit card that a bank issues. The money is then withdrawn from these cards at ATMs and then disposed of. Your tax refund is all gone and stolen by these fraudsters.
Most times you aren’t aware you are a victim of such identity tax fraud until you try filing your return and the IRS informs you that “You have already filed”. With a puzzled reaction you tell them “No I have not yet filed for my returns” but in their database it shows where you have.to your defense you tell them “It wasn’t you, it must have been someone else”.
The IRS will now have to carry out an investigation in order for your identity to be sorted out. This process may take up to months before you can regain your identity and also claim your tax refund. The IRS is working tirelessly in an effort to try and put a stop to this. If you are a victim of identity tax fraud please contact your local law enforcement agency and report the crime.
How to Protect Yourself Against IRS Refund Scams?
- The IRS will not contact you via telephone or email message; they will only contact you via snail or postal mail. So, any calls from persons claiming they are from the IRS, should be terminated. And, email messages appearing as if they came from the IRS requesting information or payment, should be deleted.
- Never give out your personal information(address, full name, date of birth) and finacial information(credit card number, Social Security Number(SSN)) over the phone, or send it to someone who requested it via email message.
- The IRS will never ask you to make payment via prepaid debt card, a money order, wire transfer, Western Union, MoneyGram or other money transfer services.
- Never verify information over the phone to callers who claim they are from the IRS. This is another trick by scammers to trick their victims into indirectly disclosing their information.