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Susan Tompor: Tax refund scammers are finding new ways to steal from you

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Home and Consumer News

A coordinated crackdown on tax-related, ID theft has drastically reduced the numbers of new refund fraud victims. But new schemes keep popping up all across the country.

"ID thieves are growing in sophistication," warned Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig on a call with the news media last week.

The IRS touted a 19-percent decline in the number of reported identity theft victims for this year through October, compared with the same period in 2017. The decline is even more dramatic -- down more than 70 percent -- compared with 2015.

The IRS reported that about 177,000 taxpayers were victims of tax-related ID theft so far this year through October 2018. That compares with about 242,000 victims in 2017 and about 699,000 victims in 2015.

Many times, people discover they're a victim when they have trouble with e-filing their own tax returns. Headaches only build, as they try to unravel the mess and claim their legitimate tax refund.

The IRS has been working with state tax agencies and tax professionals, including tax powerhouses H&R Block and Intuit, to safeguard taxpayer data since 2015 through a partnership called a "Security Summit."

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ID thieves aren't giving up, though, so the IRS and others are warning about some aggressive scams.

The secret sauce of the Security Summit has included getting the word out in real time to notify key players in the tax ecosystem about new scam twists.

Lynne Riley, state revenue commissioner for Georgia, said her state ran up against a scam where a business account was created with the state department of revenue.

The crook manipulated the numbers to make it appear as if the business had somehow been overpaying or over-withholding required taxes with the state and then the con artist requested fraudulent refunds.

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