IRS warns of new tax refund scam

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A W-4 form on Feb. 5, 2020, in New York. Monday is Tax Day, the federal deadline for individual tax filing and payments. The IRS will receive tens of millions of filings electronically and through paper forms. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)

The IRS on Monday warned of a new refund scam being mailed out to taxpayers. 

The letter, which comes in a cardboard envelope, is designed to trick people into believing that they are owed a refund, the tax agency said. The agency said there is an IRS masthead on the letter and says the notice is “in relation to your unclaimed refund.” 

The letter includes contact information, but the phone number is not an IRS number. Letter recipients are asked to share a driver’s license images, which the IRS warns can be used by identity thieves. People are also asked to share their cellphone number, bank routing information, Social Security number and bank account type.

“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. “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.”

Among the warning signs indicating that the letters are fake are awkwardly-worded requests, such as asking for “A Clear Phone of Your Driver’s License That Clearly Displays All Four (4) Angles, Taken in a Place with Good Lighting.”

The letter claims you need to supply the information to get your refund. 

“These Must Be Given to a Filing Agent Who Will Help You Submit Your Unclaimed Property Claim,” the phony letter reads. “Once You Send All The Information Please Try to Be Checking Your Email for Response From The Agents Thanks.”

In addition to the strange wording, there’s odd punctuation and a mixture of fonts. The letter also has inaccurate information on tax return deadlines. 

Taxpayers can get real mail from the IRS and the agency contacts taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers via email, text or social media.

The agency says people should never click on unsolicited communication claiming to be from the IRS. Taxpayers can report phishing scams to Scams can also be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The IRS regularly updates a list of scams targeting taxpayers. 

People interested in checking their refund status can visit the IRS Where’s My Refund Page, check the app or call the IRS. 

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