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The IRS is warning of a significant increase in a tax scam that gives victims a refund, then requests it back.

Scams are quite timely around income tax filing time. W-2 forms include details that are valuable on the dark web, such as social security numbers.

There are a few ways to protect yourself from fraud that can occur when someone uses your social security number.

  • Regularly check your credit reports. Request one report every four months from a different one of the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). This will help you keep better tabs on your credit and potential fraud.
  • File your income taxes earlier. The sooner you can do this, the less likely your information will be used to steal your tax refund.
  • If there is no need for anyone to access your credit, consider freezing it. There may be a cost in your state; however, it is well worth keeping your credit reports out of the hands of someone who wants to open accounts in your name and just not pay the bills.

If you receive a request from someone specifically requesting W-2 information, make sure to independently confirm the identity of the individual via a separate phone call to the company, by paying a personal visit, or by sending a separate text. Do not reply to the email.

The IRS also is warning of another scam that involves a “refund” deposited in the victim’s actual bank account. Once acquiring sensitive information, such as social security numbers and bank account numbers, the scammers file false returns, have an amount of money deposited into the actual account and then ask for it back.

They do this by posing as IRS agents who explain to the victims that it was a mistake, have them return the “refund” to the scammer’s account and then they pocket the money.

The IRS has detailed instructions on its website for returning mistaken refunds to them.

Remember, the IRS will never initiate contact in email, by phone, or in a text message. This will be done using the U.S. Postal Service.

The IRS believes the\is information is being stolen from tax preparers.