Warning: Watch Out for New IRS Refund Mail Scam

If you receive a cardboard envelope appearing to be from the IRS about an unclaimed tax refund, be cautious. It’s a new scam.

pile of junk mail for IRS unclaimed refund scam
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's a new IRS scam to watch out for. Some people are receiving cardboard envelopes in the mail containing the IRS masthead and the wording: “in relation to your unclaimed refund.” Monday, the agency warned that the mailings are a scam to trick taxpayers into providing sensitive information to thieves. The IRS says it “never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text or social media regarding a bill or tax refund.”

  • The fake letters contain false contact details and ask for personal and financial information, such as a detailed photo of your driver's license. 
  • Identity thieves can use this information to commit fraud. 
  • According to IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel, this is one of many scams used by criminals who pretend to be from the IRS. 
  • The IRS releases a yearly list of the top twelve "dirty dozen" scams taxpayers should know.

"These scams can come in through email, text, or even in special mailings,” Werfel said in a statement about the warning, adding, “People should be careful to watch out for red flags that mark these as IRS scams." 

In its most recent warning, the IRS says taxpayers should look out for awkward wording and inaccurate information indicating the letters are a scam. Here are some examples.

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New IRS Scam Letter: Awkwardly-Worded Requests 

"A Clear Phone of Your Driver's License That Clearly Displays All Four (4) Angles, Taken in a Place with Good Lighting."

"You'll Need to Get This to Get Your Refunds After Filing. These Must Be Given to a Filing Agent Who Will Help You Submit Your Unclaimed Property Claim. Once You Send All The Information Please Try to Be Checking Your Email for a Response From The Agents Thanks"

However, the scam mailing asks taxpayers to provide “filing information,” like their bank routing numbers, Social Security numbers, and cellphone numbers. You should NOT provide the information. Instead, you should report the scam to the IRS (more on how to do that below).

IRS Refund Scam Warning Sign: Inaccurate Information 

Another thing to look out for is inaccurate information in this particular mailing.  

  • For example, the IRS says the scam letter states the deadline for filing tax refunds is October 17. That’s wrong. The real IRS deadline this year is October 16. 
  • The mail scam also says that the IRS handles "unclaimed property." In fact, the agency handles unclaimed refunds.

Note: Some legitimate unclaimed tax refunds are available at the IRS if you didn’t file a federal income tax return in 2019. (But this latest scam mailing is not related to those.) 

As Kiplinger reported, unclaimed tax refunds totaling about $1.5 billion remain unclaimed at the IRS because millions of taxpayers haven’t filed their tax returns for the 2019 tax year. Because the 2019 tax returns were due in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, “many people may have overlooked or forgotten about these refunds.” Werfel said in a statement. As a result, the IRS says taxpayers have until only July 17, 2023, to file and make sure they don't miss out if they think they are due a refund.

What to Do if You Get a Scam IRS Letter

If you receive this letter or any other mailing or email that you think is a scam, don’t respond or click on any links if it's an email. Instead, contact the IRS. The IRS says there are a couple of ways you can do this. 

  • You can send the email or a copy of the text or letter you received to phishing@irs.gov.
  • You can also report scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or the Internet Crimes Complaint Center. You can find information about this on the IRS Tax Scams: How to Report Them website page.
Kelley R. Taylor
Senior Tax Editor, Kiplinger.com

As the senior tax editor at Kiplinger.com, Kelley R. Taylor simplifies federal and state tax information, news, and developments to help empower readers. Kelley has over two decades of experience advising on and covering education, law, finance, and tax as a corporate attorney and business journalist.