Turns out you can be too eager to get your hands on a federal income tax refund — and the scammers know it.
Phony emails are popping up like spring flowers, often displaying the IRS logo and using subject lines such as “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.”
Potential victims are then asked to click a link and submit a form to claim their federal income tax refund.
The scammers, pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service, crafted a new scheme this spring that targets college students, professors and others who use a .edu email address.
The IRS has heard plenty about this new impersonation scam in recent weeks from people and put out an alert on Tuesday.
“The phishing emails appear to target university and college students from both public and private, profit and nonprofit institutions,” according to an IRS alert.
Maybe you filed a tax return back in February and wonder what happened to your refund cash? If you’re busy, you might not think twice when you get an email that looks like the IRS needs more information to process that refund.
“These crooks know that many people are eagerly awaiting their tax refund and may not look closer at who actually sent the email,” said Luis D. Garcia, an IRS spokesperson in Detroit.
“It’s not as if educators and students don’t already have enough to worry about but these criminals are relentless.”
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If you click on that phony link, you’re going to be asked to verify or supply some information that you should never hand over to strangers.
Your Social Security number. Your driver’s license number. Your prior year’s adjusted gross income. Your electronic filing Identity Protection PIN that is used to file a tax return.
The kicker: An Identity Protection PIN, known as an IP PIN by tax professionals, is a six-digit number that is designed to stop crooks from filing a tax return using your Social Security number. The actual number for the IP PIN is known only to you and the IRS — unless, of course, you unwittingly hand it over when a phishing email shows up.
“This scam is particularly insidious because they’re asking for the ID theft protection PIN that some taxpayers have to protect themselves from this very scam,” Garcia said.
Don’t click on any links if you see this scam email. You can, according to the IRS, save the email using “save as” and then send that attachment to [email protected] or forward the email as an attachment to [email protected]
The IRS said taxpayers who believe they may have provided identity thieves with important information should consider immediately obtaining an Identity Protection PIN. This is a voluntary opt-in program. See IRS.gov.
ID theft can be ongoing throughout the tax season, as crooks attempt to file phony tax returns to steal tax refund dollars.
One sign of ID fraud: You might attempt to e-file your tax return and then find it is rejected by the IRS system because another tax return with your Social Security number has already been filed. If that happens, you’d need to file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit PDF, to report yourself as a possible identity theft victim. You’d submit that form by mail or by fax.
The IRS has an “Identity Theft Central” spot at IRS.gov where you can get more information about what to do when you’re a victim of fraud. See IRS.gov/identitytheft.
If you are worried about your tax refund — and some people are expressing concern about some delays — you still want to try to do your own research. Go to IRS.gov and use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool.
The IRS says more than nine out of 10 federal income tax refunds are issued in less than 21 days. However, the IRS notes, it’s possible your tax return may require additional review and take longer.
Contact Susan Tompor via [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @tompor. To subscribe, please go to freep.com/specialoffer. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.
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