Identity Fraud

Tax Refund Scam

How to Avoid Being Scammed

  1. If you suspect you're a victim of tax fraud, quickly alert your financial institutions and credit reporting agencies. Thieves don't just use your information once–they will use it again and again.
  2. Safeguard your personal information.
  3. Check your credit card and bank activity statements regularly and report all suspicious activity immediately.

Scheme Information

What is a tax refund scam?

Tax Refund Scam

Victims have no idea a crook has filed a tax return using their name until they try to file their own tax return.


Tax Refund Scam

Thieves ask to receive the tax refund on a debit card which is sent via the U.S. Mail. The card will be sent to another address. Unbeknown to you.


Tax Refund Scam

Keep a close hold on your Social Security number and ask questions before deciding to share it. Safeguard your personal information, whether it is on paper, online, or on your computers and mobile devices.


Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return to receive a fraudulent tax refund.   And when the tax refund check or refund debit card is sent through the U.S. Mail, it falls within the Postal Inspection Service jurisdiction under the category of Identity Fraud.

According to the IRS document, "Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft," an identity theft tax refund scam "occurs when someone uses your personal [identifying] information [PII] such as your name, Social Security number [SSN] or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes."

Tax refund fraud has exploded in recent years — it's a growing epidemic.  About 1.6 million Americans were victims of ID theft/tax refund crimes last year, according to a recent audit by the Treasury Department’s inspector general.

If you find that someone is using your personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, (1) contact the the fraud department of your financial institution right away. Explain that someone stole your identity; (2) Ask them to close or freeze the accounts. Then, no one can add new charges unless you agree; and (3) Change logins, passwords and PINS for your accounts.

Remember, if the U.S. Mail was used in a crime, even if the crime began on the Internet, phone, or in person, report it to U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455, or at postalinspectors.uspis.gov.