Save Me Steve: A new tax season scam is going around

Tax day is more than a month away but thieves are already plotting against you. Consumer reporter Steve Noviello says there’s a new twist on the tax refund scam.

For years, we've been getting complaints about phony phone callers claiming to be from the IRS telling people to provide sensitive information or send in money.

It's always been easy to warn against these scams because the IRS does not call. But now the would-be thieves are getting more creative.

Now they are not posing as the IRS but debt collectors instead. And they’re starting by giving you money up front.

Here's how it works: Taxpayers are getting large refunds deposited into their bank account. These are refunds for which they did not apply.

Then comes the call from a collection agency asking you to check your account. Sure enough, the money is there but of course it's not yours. So when you're asked to send it back, it seems logical.

The request is accompanied with a formal looking letter from a website with video instructions. But there's one catch.

The original deposit ultimately gets flagged as fraud, so it gets reversed. By then it’s too late because you've already sent in your very real money.

So how do the scammers get access in the first place? It seems the primary targets are tax prep offices who may have been hacked or fallen victim to a phishing scam. That's how your personal information is compromised in the first place.

Is the best advice here "do not respond"? Don't respond to the caller but do contact your bank. If a fraudulent deposit was possible chances are a bogus withdrawal is possible too. Victims should close any compromised account and transfer any legitimate balance to a new account number.

As a reminder in general, if someone makes a deposit, sends you a check, accidentally pays you when they owed you nothing at all and then asks for money back it is probably a scam.

Yes, it will appear the funds are there but that's only until the system catches the error, and after your real money is long gone.