What the Tech? How to Avoid Having Your Tax Refund Check Stolen

By JAMIE TUCKER Consumer Technology Reporter

Checks are in the mail for millions of taxpayers who are getting a refund from the IRS. The Internal Revenue Service says while most taxpayers choose automatic bank deposits, about 20% of Americans still prefer getting their refund by check.

As they wait for their refunds to arrive, criminals are waiting too. Mailbox thefts have been on the rise for years and tax season is a prime opportunity for crooks to quickly take money intended for the rightful taxpayers.

According to the police and the U.S. Postal Service, checks and other items are stolen from mailboxes by thieves who watch mail trucks as they make delivery. Stealing mail is a prime example of a ‘crime of opportunity’ and can be committed in just a few seconds.

Residents can keep a close watch on the mail to be delivered for tax refunds or anything else. If you’re expecting a refund from the IRS, keep an eye on its website for when your refund will be delivered.

IRS.Gov/refunds gives you a heads-up on when to expect a refund check to arrive. On the website, you’ll be asked to enter your social security number and filing status along with the exact amount of the refund. The IRS updates the site and information once a day, usually overnight.

You can also download the IRS app, IRS-2-Go for daily updates and to make any estimated tax payments.

You should also sign up for the US Postal Service’s delivery notifications called “Informed Delivery”. This service sends an email every morning about what mail is going to be delivered.

Not just a list of items, but grayscale photos of each piece of mail that will be in your mailbox. The email should arrive around 8 am each morning.

To sign up, just go to the postal service website and answer a few questions for proof of residency. In addition to the email each morning you can log onto a website to see every piece of mail and packages over the previous week. And if you don’t receive a piece of mail, you can report it as being undelivered.

And if you don’t sign up for your home address, someone else can be tipped off when an important piece of mail such as new credit and debit cards will be delivered. Crooks are pretty smart when it comes to scamming people and getting just enough information to apply for the notifications.

While tax payments and refunds are a target each spring, it isn’t just refund checks they’re after. The Postal Service and the FBI warn crooks are looking for personal information and one piece of mail can include everything they need to steal your identity.


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