FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If you haven't already, chances are you're gearing up to file your taxes before the April 15 deadline. But if you're waiting for a refund check, we have a warning for you. Our Call for Action team has uncovered fraudulent checks are becoming harder to spot.
The victim in this story said she got a check from FedEx overnight. It was worth a couple thousand dollars, just like she was expecting in her tax refund. But she realized after trying to cash it, it wasn't a check at all.
Jessica Perkins said she filed her taxes online and was waiting for her refund check to arrive. When she got a check in the mail, she went to Wal-Mart to cash it but it wouldn't go through. Taking a closer look, Perkins realized the check wasn't a refund check but a check from a printing company in New Jersey.
"I noticed different things: it 'paycheck,' bank is in a completely different state than the other place," said Perkins.
Turns out someone was using the name of a printing company in New Jersey to mail fake checks. It's why Fraud Specialist Beth Schell with the Lee County Sheriff's Office said file as early as possible and don't wait.
"The aspect of saying that its an income tax refund check and then being contact by somebody claiming to be with the IRS, wanting you to deposit that check and send it back, that's a new twist really on an old scam," said Schell.
Schell also suggested if you're waiting for your refund in paper check format, contact the IRS and ask them if it's legit. Remember, once you deposit the check and withdraw the money, wire it or spent it, you're responsible to the bank for the bad check.
"If you receive a check in the mail thats suspicious or somebody is asking you to wire money back, thats a huge red flag that this is probably a fraud," said Schell.
As to how the scammers may have gotten Perkins information at all, she recently applied for a job online. Be careful where you're putting your personal information and always make sure you're using a secure site.
"People aren't going to normally send you a check, thats a good check, in the mail for something that you didn't do or you didn't earn," said Schell.
In this case, Perkins caught on before any damage was done but wants others to be on the look out.
"Everything seemed to be so authentic and it's not. It's all fraud," said Perkins.
WINK News also contacted the Better Business Bureau of West Florida. They told us they haven't seen anything like this yet but the BBB and LCSO said it really comes down to doing your homework and about who you're filing your taxes with. Also, if you have any questions, call your local law enforcement agency.