Local woman warns others about potentially fraudulent tax refund checks from U.S. Treasury

BUTLER, Pa. — They look real, like they’re coming from the federal government, but a Butler woman says the IRS is telling her that two tax refund checks mailed to her are fakes. With tax season here and refunds starting to trickle in, Amy Deal wanted to share her experience, so nobody falls victim to having their personal information compromised.

Amy Deal says nothing was adding up when two official-looking envelopes from the U.S. Department of the Treasury arrived Monday.

“The first thing I thought of was these are fake,” Amy Deal tells Channel 11. “These checks are fake. I file for direct deposit and have for the past 20 years!”

Deal told Channel 11, the IRS app said her refund, with direct deposit, was still pending.

“Immediately I got on my phone, and I looked for Channel 11 because I thought this needs to be said,” Deal added. “This needs to go out.”

Deal says she noticed the checks were dated 2019 and 2020, but just issued last week. They did not contain “Economic Impact Payment” or then-President Donald Trump’s name, which would indicate a COVID-19 stimulus check.

“They were just in my name, which our tax return is never just in my name seeing as we file jointly and we have a small business,” Deal added.

Deal called the IRS and said she was on the line for nearly an hour as they tried to figure out what was going on.

“She said I really dug, I want them to be real, but there is nothing on your account, especially in those amounts, that even resemble anything being distributed to you,” Deal told Channel 11.

The IRS told Channel 11, it’s very unlikely Deal would have received a paper check this early based on when she filed. And the refund amount didn’t match the amount she was owed when she filed online.

In cases of identity theft, scammers can use your personal information to try to get access to your bank account. Or, as the IRS has warned before, thieves can file a fraudulent tax return. which comes to you as a real check. If you deposit it, they pose as members of the IRS demanding the money back.

In Deal’s case, there were plenty of red flags. She said even the paper the checks were issued on didn’t match.

“This one feels more like a paper check, a thicker piece of paper and that one you’re holding feels more like printer paper,” Deal demonstrated.

So, what should you look for if you’re concerned your refund check isn’t real?

All U.S. Treasury checks have a watermark that reads “U.S. Treasury” which can be seen on the front and back of the check when held up to light. If you can see “U.S. Treasury” without holding up the check to the light, it may be fraudulent.

Deal did not see the watermark and neither did Channel 11.

Checks should also have microprinting in three areas. They’re tiny lines that become visible words when magnified.

Additionally, the Treasury seal on the check should contain ink that runs red when water is applied. We did not test that, so Deal can hand her checks over to an investigator.

“Had I been someone who filed paper, I might have been duped myself,” Deal added.

If you get a paper check that you’re not expecting, or that seems suspicious, do not deposit it. Instead, reach out to the IRS to ask if you’re owed that money.

To check to see if your check is real, click the links below for additional resources:

U.S. Treasury Check Security Features

IRS Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts

Treasury Check Verification System

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