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IRS Warns of Tax Refund Scam Targeting College Students and Staff

IRS Warns of Tax Refund Scam Targeting College Students and Staff

Scammers try to take advantage of all types of vulnerable people unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the tax refund process, and the Internal Revenue Service says that this year they are specifically targeting students and staff who have a .edu email address. It doesn’t matter whether you attend a private or public university, whether you’re a full-time student, part-time, attending a brick-and-mortar college or are strictly online – If you have an email address that ends with .edu, don’t be surprised if you receive an email with a subject line that says “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your Tax Refund Payment.” Either way, make sure that your immediate response is to delete that email: It’s a hoax.

Recently, the IRS sent out a public notice warning that emails are going out with the intention of scamming university and college students, as well as staff members. They are sending out phishing emails that impersonate the IRS, asking recipients to click on a link in order to either keep themselves out of some type of trouble or to expedite their receipt of a tax refund. Though the emails may incorporate the agency’s logo, they are not legitimate, and recipients should not provide any of the personal information that they request.

The IRS warning emphasized the same message that the agency has repeatedly published over the last several years: They warn that they do not send out unsolicited emails, even in cases of taxpayers who are subject to audit. Anybody receiving an email claiming to be from the IRS that asks for personal information such as a driver’s license number, electronic filing pin, date of birth or Social Security Number are advised that they absolutely should not provide the information. It is a scam and will only lead to long-term problems.

It is important for American taxpayers to know what the IRS will and will not do. They correspond via old-fashioned snail mail and will not send out unsolicited emails. As for tax refunds, they do not reach out regarding those, tax bills, or even to provide notifications about the ongoing stimulus payments. A significant number of people continue to fall for scammers who are pretending to be the IRS, and tax-related scams are at the top of the annual “Dirty Dozen” list of hoaxes that people are being subjected to. With tax season underway, the number of hoax emails being sent out is on the rise, and people with college email addresses are apparently the latest target. 

For most tax filers, this year’s individual tax filing deadline is Monday May 17th. The stress and confusion created by the global pandemic has inspired scammers to pursue new victims, and this year’s list is topped by college students who may be going through their first year of filing taxes instead of having their parents claim them as dependents. For tax year 2020, some of them may be able to claim a recovery rebate credit of $1,200 during Round 1 and an additional $600 for the second round of the stimulus. They are also likely to be on the receiving end of $1,400 under the payment signed into law last month by President Biden.

Despite the fact that the filing deadline has been pushed back, the IRS had already issued over 62 million tax refunds averaging almost $2,900 as of the week ending April 2nd, 2021.

As the IRS continues to issue warnings and alerts, they are also trying to put a halt to scammers’ activities and are requesting that anybody on the receiving end of a hoax email report it by emailing it as an attachment [email protected]. Each of these reports will be forwarded to both the IRS Criminal Investigation unit and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. 

If you have filed your taxes and are wondering when your refund will arrive, you can log onto the IRS website and use the Where’s My Refund? tool. Similarly, the IRS provides information about the Round 1 and Round 2 payments via an IRS online account and the Round 3 payment via the IRS Get My Payment tool.

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Steward Financial

Steward Financial

Jon Osborn is a tax preparer based in San Dimas, California. His company, Steward Financial Services, offers a broad range of tax preparation, accounting and business consulting for small businesses. He loves to work with clients who are looking for answers to complex tax and business planning issues. He has owned several small businesses and worked with over one hundred small business owners. He helps his individual and business tax clients find the best ways to spend their money in order to minimize IRS tax. Small businesses looking to grow, sell or just increase cash flow are one of Jon's specialties.

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