The IRS is warning taxpayers about a rapidly growing new scam involving erroneous tax refunds.

The scam starts with the scammer stealing taxpayer data and using it to file fraudulent tax returns. In a new twist, the scammers are having these refunds deposited into the taxpayer's actual bank account.

The thieves then employ various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayer.

In one version of the scam, the criminals pose as debt collection agencies working on behalf of the IRS. They inform the taxpayer that the refund was deposited in error and ask the taxpayer to forward the money to their collection agency.

In another version, the taxpayer who received the erroneous refund, then receives an automated call from someone purporting to be from the IRS. The caller threatens the taxpayer with an arrest warrant, criminal fraud charges and a "blacklisting" of their Social Security Number. The caller then provides a case number and a phone number for the taxpayer to call.

  This is a rapidly growing and quickly evolving scam. The above scenarios are but 2 of the versions of the scam identified to date. You can rest assured this scam will continue to evolve with new and different tactics.

Important information if you receive an erroneous refund.

If you receive a refund that you were not expecting, or in an amount other than you were expecting:

  1. Realize that this is NOT a windfall. If it is a legitimate error, you will not be able to keep the money. If it is a scam, then you are already a victim of identity theft.
  2. If you have had your taxes prepared by a professional, contact your tax preparer immediately.
  3. The IRS has set-up a web page with detailed instructions on returning an erroneous refund. Please see https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc161 for more information.

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