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How to Avoid Tax Refund Scams


Congratulations! You’ve completed your tax return and submitted it to the IRS on time. All you have to do now is sit back and wait for that sweet return if you’re owed one. You’re not the only one excited about tax refunds. Scammers love them, too.

According to the IRS, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Here are some tax scams to be aware of during tax season, and mindful of all year long.

Scam Mailing
Scammers will try to mislead people into thinking they are owed a refund. It sounds too good to be true because it is. Scammers will mail you an envelope from a delivery service with a letter that looks like it’s from the IRS, including a phone number and a phrase such as “In relation to your unclaimed refund.” Do NOT call the number. Do NOT text the number. Do NOT send them an email. The scammers may ask you for your driver’s license and other personal information they can use to steal your identity, money, and your tax refund. They may ask for your bank’s routing number, your cellphone number, and your Social Security number. Do NOT share any information with them.

The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Know the telltale signs of a scam and how to know if it’s really the IRS.

Tax Refunds by Email or Text
Here’s another scenario to watch out for. You receive a text or email alerting you of a tax refund. Or a recalculation of your refund. While it may look legitimate, it is not. The scammers are trying to engage you to steal personal information and your identity. The IRS does not issue tax refunds by email or text. If you receive one of these fake emails or texts, delete it. Do NOT open it. If you open the email or text, do NOT click on any links as they may load malware on your phone or computer, which can lock you out of your device. The only way to regain access is to pay a ransom.

How To Check on Your Refund
If you’re owed a refund from the IRS, finding out its status is easy. Visit Where’s My Refund? on the IRS website. According to the site, your refund status will appear around:

  • 24 hours after you e-file a current-year return
  • 3 or 4 days after you e-file a prior-year return
  • 4 weeks after you file a paper return

Is It the IRS or Not?

As mentioned above, the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Here are a few things to consider to help you figure out if the IRS or a scammer is contacting you.

  • The IRS contacts taxpayers by postal mail first; they will not call or email you first or ask for personal or financial information.
  • The IRS will not reach out to you via social media.
  • The IRS will not leave a prerecorded threatening or urgent voicemail.
  • The IRS’s website is The IRS’s website does not end with .com, .net, .org, or .edu.
  • The IRS will not ask for your credit card or debit card information over the phone, by text, or email.
  • The IRS will not ask you to pay a bill with a gift card or prepaid debit card.
  • The IRS will not threaten to arrest or deport you or revoke your driver’s license or passport.
  • The IRS will not threaten to send local law enforcement to your home or business.

How To Report a Scam
If you encounter what you believe to be an IRS scam, here are actions you can take, according to the IRS:

  • Report impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage. Taxpayers can also call 800-366-4484 to report impersonation scams.
  • Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS-related system like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System to the IRS at
  • Protect your community by reporting fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Report fraud to Report Fraud FTC.
  • For a comprehensive listing of recent tax scams, consumer alerts and how to report them, visit Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts.

Final Thoughts
Tax season isn’t the only season scammers love. Sadly, a day doesn’t go by when a scammer isn’t trying to steal personal information or money from someone. One way to help you stay vigilant is to visit our Current Scams page. It’s filled with news and videos to help you stay alert to fraudsters and scammers.

Remember, just like the IRS, we will never call or text you asking for your personal information, such as your Social Security number, username, account number, credit card number, password, or one-time passcode, over the phone unless you initiated the call directly to us. Even if the caller has an identifying piece of information about you or the call appears to be from our 800 number, the call is NOT legitimate. Scammers can spoof phone numbers to make it appear the call is coming from a trusted source. The Credit Union will not call you and ask for this information. Hang up and contact us directly at 800.877.2345.

Be alert. Be aware. Be vigilant.

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