May 22, 2024

This Tax Season, Protect Your Check

By Joseph Perry, Tax & Business Services Leader

This Tax Season, Protect Your Check Tax & Business

Every tax year, it’s a serious problem – taxpayers who elect to have their refund checks delivered by mail remain waiting on the postman. Obviously, mail can get lost. However, refund checks from the IRS are often targeted and easy to steal. Fraudsters aren’t stupid – they know what to look for, and tax season represents a veritable treasure trove for these scammers. Even worse, their methods evolve alongside the IRS’ anti-fraud measures.

Marcum’s Chairman & CEO, Jeffrey Weiner, warned of this very thing last year, and the proof is in the pudding – in 2023, check fraud in the U.S. resulted in losses amounting to about $21 billion. As you can imagine, those committing fraud can become quite sophisticated in their methods with so much at stake. Still, one common technique is as simple as can be: swiping an IRS envelope from your mailbox.

What’s more, IRS refund checks are a juicier target than just the value of the refund suggests, as they can open avenues for other forms of fraud. There are several different ways scammers might impersonate the IRS to take advantage of taxpayers. Here’s a breakdown of how IRS refund check fraud might work:

  • Would-be thieves send out bogus checks, replicating some (but rarely all) of the features of authentic U.S. Treasury checks.
  • Those expecting IRS refunds by mail receive a phony check, mistake it as authentic, and deposit it with their financial institution.
  • Those who do deposit bogus checks are then contacted by fraudsters posing as IRS representatives demanding refunds. These fraudulent “refunds” will be directed to accounts the fraudster controls.
  • Alternatively, if the fraudster possesses the legitimate taxpayers’ personal information, they may be able to take the scam further by assuming direct control of the taxpayer’s IRS account and intercept future distributions from the IRS.

Taxpayers suspicious of any checks originating from the IRS should report that activity to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, or the Federal Trade Commission.

Taxpayers who are waiting on refunds can check on the status of their refund by visiting the IRS website.

Where’s My Refund
Where’s My Amended Refund

Don’t be a Victim of Refund Check Fraud: Elect for Electronic Distribution

What is the best way to avoid becoming a victim of mail-based check fraud? Elect to receive your refund as a direct deposit and report any suspicious or unanticipated mail purporting to be from the IRS. Remember to review your return for this option and your bank account information before you sign your e-filing authorization forms.