While most scammers nowadays prefer to go the digital route through fraudulent emails, texts and social media messages, a new scam involving tax refunds has an old-school flavor by using snail mail to try and dupe people.
The IRS warned of the scam in a July 3 news release, advising taxpayers to be “on the lookout” for a mailing that tries to mislead people into believing they are owed a refund. The scam involves a letter that arrives in a cardboard envelope from a delivery service. The letter includes the IRS masthead and wording that the notice is “in relation to your unclaimed refund.”
As with many scams, this one features contact information that doesn’t belong to the IRS, the agency said. The letter requests that recipients provide sensitive personal information — including driver’s license photos — that identity thieves can use to steal financial info.
“This is just the latest in the long string of attempts by identity thieves posing as the IRS in hopes of tricking people into providing valuable personal information to steal identities and money, including tax refunds,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement. “These scams can come in through email, text or even in special mailings. People should be careful to watch out for red flags that clearly mark these as IRS scams.”
In the latest case, the fraudulent letter tells recipients they need to provide “Filing Information” for their tax refund. It also includes some “awkwardly worded” requests such as: “A Clear Phone of Your Driver’s License That Clearly Displays All Four (4) Angles, Taken in a Place with Good Lighting.”
The letter then requests sensitive information such as the recipient’s cellphone number, bank routing information, Social Security number and bank account type, followed by a “poorly worded” warning:
“You’ll Need to Get This to Get Your Refunds After Filing. These Must Be Given to a Filing Agent Who Will Help You Submit Your Unclaimed Property Claim. Once You Send All The Information Please Try to Be Checking Your Email for Response From The Agents Thanks”
When a letter from a supposed government agency is poorly written and includes odd punctuation and different fonts, you can be pretty sure it’s a scam. This letter also includes inaccurate information — another red flag.
For example, it says the deadline for filing tax refunds is Oct. 17, when the actual deadline for filing extended returns is Oct.16. Taxpayers owed refunds from last year have even more time to file, according to the IRS. Meanwhile, the IRS does not deal in “unclaimed property,” and it never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text or social media regarding a bill or tax refund.
If you received the letter or any other suspicious correspondence from sources claiming to be the IRS, don’t respond to them or provide any information.
You can report scams to the to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The Report Phishing and Online Scams page at IRS.gov provides complete details. Another useful tool to guard against mobile security threats is the Federal Communications Commission’s Smartphone Security Checker.
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