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It seems like a scam. Is it?
June 2, 2014 5:48 PM   Subscribe

My mom just got a check for a few thousand dollars from a place called Republic Bank Tax Refund Solutions in Kentucky. She doesn't know what or whom it's from. There's a phone number to call to "verify" and you can only verify a check once.

The place says they're a tax refund firm, but they are not my mom's tax refund service.

Seems like a scam. But it looks like a real check. The bigger problem - it has the last four digits of her social security number. A quick check online didn't produce much either way. Anyone know anything?
posted by crankyrogalsky to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Tax refunds are paid by state treasuries, not private companies. Don't deposit that check.
posted by dfriedman at 5:50 PM on June 2 [5 favorites]


A quick google search suggests that this outfit is trying to sucker your mom into a tax refund anticipation loan.
posted by dfriedman at 5:51 PM on June 2 [11 favorites]


Thanks!! I knew I'd come to the right place.

Should she be concerned they have the last four digits of her SSN? That's what she's most concerned about. Thanks again.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 5:57 PM on June 2


Should she be concerned they have the last four digits of her SSN?

Concerned? Not very. If they had enough of her personal information to do anything useful with it, they would have already done something useful with it rather than this scam. Maybe she should forward the thing to her state AG or similar fraud agency, so they can add it to a file.
posted by Etrigan at 5:59 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]


I think Dfriedman has it, but just out of curiosity is the refund check made out for the "right" amount (i.e. does it match or very closely come near what your mother was expecting as a refund check).

I'd be more worried if it was - for example that your mother's return information had been sold on/made available by her tax preparation service to a third party. In which case she may want to go back to the tax preparation/refund service and ask WTF is up with that. She may want to do that anyway and let them know.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:31 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


No, it's a random number. My parents have a business manager, so it's not a result of a tax-prep service. Thanks for all the info - we're going to contact the AG office - also advice.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 6:43 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Maybe she should forward the thing to her state AG or similar fraud agency...

Definitely do this. This is a beyond shady thing to do.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:36 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]


“We noticed your post regarding a check your mother received and would like to take this opportunity to respond. Republic Bank Tax Refund Solutions is a division of Republic Bank & Trust Company (www.republicbank.com) and offers a product called a Refund Transfer.

Through participating online tax software and in-perosn tax offices, taxpayers can choose a Refund Transfer which means their tax refund will be direct deposited with Republic Bank from the IRS or State. After fees are deducted, the remainder of the refund is disbursed to the customer by a bank check, direct deposit or prepaid card. Customers choose a Refund Transfer for a variety of reasons including convenience, speed and security. For more information on how a Refund Transfer works, the cost and why customers choose a Refund Transfer, please visit: https://www.republicrefund.com/Products/Refund-Transfers.aspx.

Crankyrogalsky – please have your mother contact us at 888-676-2056 and we will be happy to research this matter.

Thank you,
Republic Bank Tax Refund Solutions”
posted by Republic Bank at 1:41 PM on June 3


Brilliant. Assuming this is actually on the up-and-up, they have your tax refund deposited directly into their bank account and then charge you fees to get your money back by check or direct deposit. Except that every tax agency will gladly cut you a check or direct deposit your refund into your own bank account with no fees involved at all. A payment card may be useful if you don't have a bank account, but I'm going to assume your parents have a bank account if they have a business manager.

I'd start by figuring out how your mother got signed up for this so-called "service." Someone prepared her taxes and may have suckered her into this. If you can look at her returns, what instructions do they give for the disposition of her refund? If the answer isn't a check mailed to her home or direct deposit into her own bank account, I'd ask whoever prepared her return why.

Note that sometimes people end up getting their refunds through these folks because they opted into the option to pay their tax preparation fees out of their refund. There's really very little reason to do this, as it really just translates to a rather high-interest loan, but I suppose it's something people could do.
posted by zachlipton at 5:14 PM on June 3 [15 favorites]


Seems like you'd want to review the submitted tax forms to see what the taxing authorities were instructed to do with the refunds.
posted by jgreco at 5:43 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


crankyrogalsky, did your mother use a tax preparation service?

If so, it sounds like that service may have routed through "Republic Bank," which according to their "Refund Transfer" page took a $31.95 bite out of her tax refund for the pleasure of having them send her a check.

And she should contact her tax preparer and find out if this is the case, and go over anything she signed.

If this was not clearly included in the tax prep fee, I would still be contacting the AG.
posted by zennie at 6:37 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


MetaTalk about Republic Bank comment.
posted by klangklangston at 6:47 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


Before depositing that check anywhere, make sure that doing so doesn't legally commit your mother to something --- like if there's any sort of teeny-tiny printing that says anything like "endorsing this check constitutes a legal agreement that all of the depositor's funds will be moved to Republic Bank Tax Refund Services immediately, or else Republic Bank Tax Services will be permitted to charge her $50 every month from now until eternity".
posted by easily confused at 11:58 AM on June 5


To quote payoto's excellent response in the MetaTalk thread discussing the response in this question for the benefit of those arriving from elsewhere, this is all unambiguously a semi-legal scam constructed to defraud people with low levels of financial literacy,
The Refund Transfer Fee differs by disbursement method:

$9.95 Money ClipSM Visa® Prepaid Card
$19.95 Direct Deposit
$31.95 Bank Check

...

Customers without bank accounts can choose a bank check with many low cost options for check cashing available or a prepaid card which often provides many benefits of a traditional bank account.

So I pay you $32 to cut me a check, and then I pay to cash the check? Surely there's a better way!

...

Customers will be charged a $9.95 Refund Transfer Fee and can avoid expensive check cashing fees with the Money Clip Visa Prepaid Card!


Sweeet...

oh shit

Monthly Fee ........ $3.00
ATM Fee (non-Republic Bank) ... $2.50
ATM Balance Inquiry Fee ... $1.00
ATM Denial Fee .. $1.00
Signature/PIN Purchase Denial Fee .. $1.00
Over the Counter Withdrawal Fee (OTC) ..... $5.00
Replacement/Reissue Card Fee ..... $10.00
Bill Pay Stop Payment Fee ...... $25.00
Express Delivery Fee for Replacement Card …….. $35.00


"Republic Bank Tax Refund Solutions, a division of Republic Bank & Trust Company," you "suck."
No useful service is being provided here.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:10 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


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