The IRS Is Warning Taxpayers About a New Scam—Here's What to Do About It

iStock
iStock

If an unexpected windfall from the IRS lands in your bank account before Tax Day, don’t count yourself lucky. It’s not a convenient new tax break, but a scam by identity theft experts hoping to collect fraudulent tax refunds.

Here’s how it works, according to WIRED: First, you’ll notice a sudden influx of cash in your bank account courtesy of the IRS. Clearly, the deposit is a mistake—you haven’t even started filing your taxes yet. But it’s not a clerical error. Someone has stolen your identity and filed taxes on your behalf, eager to reap the rewards from the IRS. Soon after the funds are deposited, you’ll get a call demanding the money back. A scammer will pose as someone from a collection agency linked with the IRS, demanding the money back. In some cases, people receive robocalls saying they could be arrested if they don’t return the money ASAP—to the scammers’ “collection agency,” that is.

It’s a clever scheme because the money is, in fact, in your account, and since you know it isn’t the refund you filed for, it’s easy to convince you that you need to give the money back. But obviously, you don’t want to send it to your scammer.

The IRS has issued several warnings about the scam, asking financial professionals to watch out for phishing attacks and, in general, to beef up their security procedures. The agency traced the scam back to hackers stealing data from the computers of tax professionals, giving them access to the personal information necessary to file fraudulent tax returns.

Since the 2018 tax deadline isn’t until April 17, it’s safe to say that most of us haven’t filed our taxes yet. So if you do see a few thousand dollars (or up to $20,000, according to The New York Times) waltz into your account from the government, it probably isn’t legit. Here’s what to do if you fall victim to it:

Report your identity as stolen. You’ll need to file a complaint at identitytheft.gov. The site will help guide you through the process and provide you with the forms you need.

If you’ve received a direct deposit, contact your bank and have them return it. You’ll need to go through the bank’s Automated Clearing House (ACH) department. Then call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to tell them what happened and why they’re getting their money back.

If you got the refund in the form of a paper check (how old school), write “void” in the check’s endorsement section, then return it to the IRS. Send it back to the city where the IRS sent it from, which you can see on the bottom of the check in front of the words “tax refund.” The IRS has a list of mailing addresses at the bottom of this release.

According to The New York Times, you’ll also want to get in touch with the IRS to find out whether or not the scammers actually filed a fake tax return under your name and Social Security number, since some scammers might file a fraudulent return under one name and send it to a bank account that’s under another. If they did file a return under your name, it'll complicate the process of you filing your real returns this year.

Whatever you do, don’t spend the money—you’ll have to return the money to the IRS and, adding insult to injury, you may have to pay interest on it to boot.

And if you haven't gotten a bogus refund? This may be the kick in the pants you need to get you filing your taxes as early as you can.

[h/t WIRED]

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

Computers and tablets

Amazon

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet 64GB; $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet 64GB; $84 (save $35)

- HP Pavilion x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop; $646 (save $114)

- HP Pavilion Desktop, 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10100 Processor; $469 (save $81)

- Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop; $973 (save $177)

Headphones and speakers

Beats/Amazon

- Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones; $200 (save $100)

- Sony Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Wireless Headphones; $278 (save $72)

- JBL LIVE Wireless Headphones; $100 (save $30)

- JBL Charge 4 - Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $120 (save $10)

- Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II; $79 (save $50)

- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones; $200 (save $50)

Video Games

Sony

- Watch Dogs Legion; $30 (save $30)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

- The Last of Us Part II; $30 (save $30)

TECH, GADGETS, AND TVS

Samsung/Amazon

- Amazon Fire TV Stick; $30 (save $20)

- Echo Show 8; $65 (save $65)

- Nixplay Digital Picture Frame; $115 (save $65)

- eufy Smart Doorbell; $90 (save $30)

- Samsung 75-Inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $898 (save $300)

home and Kitchen

Ninja/Amazon

- T-fal 17-Piece Cookware Set; $124 (save $56)

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Curved Round Chef's Oven; $180 (save $136)

- Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 Convection Toaster Oven; $195 (save $105)

- Roborock E4 Robot Vacuum Cleaner; $189 (save $111)

- Instant Pot Max Pressure Cooker 9 in 1; $80 (save $120)

- Shark IZ362H Cordless Anti-Allergen Lightweight Stick Vacuum; $170 (save $110)

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Hate Brown Apple Slices? Use This Simple Trick to Keep Them Fresh

Jessica Lewis, Unsplash
Jessica Lewis, Unsplash

Though they're perfectly safe to eat, brown apple slices aren't the most appealing-looking snack. If you love sliced apples but can't stand that fading color, eating them faster isn't your only option. All you need is a bowl of water and a bit of salt to keep your apples looking and tasting fresh and crisp long after you cut into them.

This trick for keeping apple slices from browning comes from Reader's Digest. Before picking up your knife, prepare a bowl of cold water. Stir in roughly half a teaspoon of salt for every cup of water and set the bowl aside until your apple slices are ready. Soak the slices for 10 minutes, drain them, and rinse them off to get rid of any excess salt. You can eat your apples right away or store them in a plastic bag or container for later. Either way, they should keep their appetizing white color for longer than they would without the saltwater soak.

Discoloration on an apple slice doesn't mean it's gone bad. When the enzymes inside an apple are exposed to air, they produce benzoquinone and melanins in a process called oxidation. This chemical reaction is behind your apple's rapid browning. Salt inhibits these enzymes, which slow down the oxidation process.

The saltwater trick is great for keeping apples looking fresh, but it only works if they've been sliced. Here's a tip for stopping your whole apples from going bad after bringing them home from the grocery store (or picking them straight from the tree).

[h/t Reader's Digest]