Consumer alert: Beware unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS

While you may be waiting not so patiently for your income tax return this year and you may have even filed online, thieves know this and are eager to take advantage of an opportunity to scam unsuspecting taxpayers. Don’t be surprised if sophisticated phishing scams show up in your email inbox in the guise of an official communication from the IRS.


We all know it is tax time; guess what, thieves know it, too! The IRS warns taxpayers that they will not send unsolicited emails regarding tax accounts, tax situations, or any personal tax issues. If such an email is received, most likely it’s a scam or some form of phishing.

Be aware that IRS impersonation fraud abounds during filing season. These schemes can take place via phone, fax, Internet, and even social networking sites, but the con favorite is email.

Many fraudulent emails are so-called phishing emails – called such because they “fish” for information – that are actually identity theft scams. The cons try to trick victims into revealing personal and financial information that can then be used to swindle bank accounts. Some e-mail scams contain attachments or links that, when clicked, download a malicious virus. Never click on links or attachments contained in unsolicited emails from any source, but in particular, the IRS will never send such emails.
Several of these fake emails are surprisingly sophisticated. For example, check out this fake email and Web-site modeled after the IRS’.
Some imitations may be actual commercial Internet sites with no connection to the IRS. Consumers unwittingly think they are visiting the IRS site when in fact they have been conned.
If you receive what appears to be a communication from the IRS, go directly to the government Web-site by entering irs.gov in your browser. And remember that the IRS will never ask for personal information in an email!
From the IRS Web-site:
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail.
– The IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail;
– The IRS does not send e-mail requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts; and
– Report suspicious e-mails and bogus IRS Web sites to phishing@irs.gov.
– Phony, but very sophisticated, IRS emails are arriving in inboxes warning recipients they must click on certain links to take action to prevent any undue attention from the IRS. The emails even have the domain name (or appendage) IRS.gov, and frequently use the IRS logo as well. The IRS will not contact individual taxpayers in this manner.
– The emails may contain attachments or links. Do NOT open any attachments or click on links. They likely contain malware, or ask for personal information which the scammers can then use in identity theft swindles.
– The IRS has established a dedicated email box for forwarding these phishing emails. If you are the unlucky recipient of such an email, forward to phishing@irs.gov with the subject line intact. Due to the high volume of these emails recently received by the IRS, taxpayers will likely not receive an individual response back, but rest assured the IRS is aware of–and is investigating–these phishing scams.
– If you believe you have already been a victim of said scam, or any other identity-theft type fraud, the IRS encourages you to seek further information on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Please welcome our guest writer, Sami K. Hartsfield, ACP, a paralegal in Houston with experience in commercial litigation and tax law. She holds a degree in paralegal studies and a bachelor of science degree in political science. After interning with Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals under Chief Justice Adele Hedges and completing the University of Houston Law Center’s Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute, she is preparing to enter law school this fall. Sami holds a national advanced paralegal certification, and four specialty certifications: Discovery; Trial Practice; Contracts Management; and Social Security Disability Law. More helpful tax information can be found at her National Tax Law Examiner page.

 

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