IRS Alerts Taxpayers about Refund Scam

The IRS is warning taxpayers of a new twist on an old tax scam.

Criminals are depositing fraudulent tax refunds into individuals’ actual bank accounts, then attempting to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers. Why would the criminals give you back the money they stole from you? Well…

The thief follows these four basic steps:

  1. First, he hacks your computer to steal your taxpayer data.
  2. Then he uses the stolen information to file a fake tax return in your name.
  3. He has the refund deposited into your bank account. Still with me?
  4. Finally, he contacts you directly, convincing you that the money was mistakenly deposited into your account and you need to return it to the IRS immediately. Of course, it won’t go to the IRS; it will go directly into the thief’s account.

While the IRS is aware of a few variations of this scam, they also know that this scam may continue to evolve. Here are two current versions making the rounds:

  • Criminals pose as debt collection officials acting on behalf of the IRS. The thief contacts the taxpayer to report an erroneous refund deposit and insists that the taxpayer forward the money to the thief’s collection agency.
  • The taxpayer who received the erroneous refund gets an automated call with a recorded voice saying the caller is from the IRS. The recording threatens the taxpayer with criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant and a “blacklisting” of his or her Social Security number. The recorded voice gives the taxpayer a phony case number and telephone number to call to return the refund.

Here’s what you should do if you are contacted about an erroneous refund:

  • There are established procedures taxpayers should follow to return erroneous funds to the IRS. Tax Topic Number 161Returning an Erroneous Refund has full details about how to return the money, including the actual mailing addresses where a taxpayer should send a paper check, if necessary. By law, interest may accrue on erroneous refunds.
  • The IRS encourages taxpayers to discuss the issue with their financial institutions because there may be a need to close bank accounts.
  • Taxpayers receiving erroneous refunds also should contact their tax preparers immediately.

For More Information on Identity Theft From the IRS:
Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft



  1. Thanks! These suggestions are all helpful.

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