Tax refund scam targeting people in our area

PHILADELPHIA - February 26, 2013

Shirley Mitchell contacted Action News after getting an automated voicemail on her cell phone.

"This is to inform you that an additional tax refund of $2,173 is to be paid to you. As a measure of security we require you to call our Department of Verification," the message said. "Your refund will be credited to you account once we verify your credentials."

"Hearing that you are eligible to receive $2,000, of course my ears jumped up," Mitchell said. "I was like 'Oh! Money, Money, Money!"

So, Mitchell picked up the phone and got a hold of someone, who was posing as an IRS agent.

"I informed them of my telephone number and he said 'Yes, Miss Mitchell, we called you to make you aware that there were some discrepancies on your tax return," Mitchell said.

Then, she said, the person on the other line started sharing person information, including her address and Social Security number.

"When he read off my checking account, I said 'Hold on,' because how could he get my checking account information? I said that is only on my tax return that I filed," said Mitchell.

That's when the agent prompted her to wire $200 for them to issue her the refund check.

"He said 'As a result of you being eligible for this refund, there is a $200 penalty because you then incorrectly did your taxes," said Mitchell.

Postal inspector Reggie Wade said federal investigators hadn't heard about this new scheme until now.

"Before hearing the voicemail that you played for us, this is the first time we have heard of this particular scam," he said.

Other consumers told Action News that scammers "had all of my banking information," and another said "they had the last four digits of my social security number and my complete home address."

"It poses a big danger to consumers," said Wade. "You never want anyone to have your personal identifying information.

Mitchell said she got suspicious and called her bank.

"I said someone needs to find out," said Mitchell, adding "I said 'I am going to call Channel 6 Action News, so that's what I did!"

The IRS said it is launching its own investigation into this scheme. If you find yourself targeted, the IRS suggests you put a fraud alert on your accounts and even shut down any accounts that have been compromised.

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