On Feb. 19 the IRS renewed consumer alerts regarding telephone and email scams in which fake IRS agents demand information or money. According to the press release, the IRS has seen a 400 percent surge in both phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season so far (returns for 2015). Typically when consumers click on links in the email, they are taken to sites designed to imitate official-looking websites, such as IRS.gov.
When people click on these email links, they are taken to official-looking websites that ask for Social Security numbers (SSN) and other sensitive personal information in order to “clarify information on returns or filing status.” Sensitive info which should not be shared includes your address, date of birth, SSN, driver’s license number, and PIN information.
The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people’s computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information. Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the communications are being reported in every section of the country.
“This dramatic jump in these scams comes at the busiest time of tax season,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Watch out for fraudsters slipping these official-looking emails into inboxes, trying to confuse people at the very time they work on their taxes. We urge people not to click on these emails.
“While more attention has focused on the continuing IRS phone scams, we are deeply worried this increase in email schemes threatens more taxpayers,” Koskinen continued. “We continue to work cooperatively with our partners on this issue, and we have taken steps to strengthen our processing systems and fraud filters to watch for scam artists trying to use stolen information to file bogus tax returns.”
As the scams increase the IRS is working with outside tax preparation services so they are also aware that they could be scam targets. Clever thieves have been seeking online credentials from these companies so that they can use them to file fraudulent returns. Those returns are frequently sent in early in the tax season, beating the true consumer in filing paperwork. Then consumers are told that someone else has received their tax return money.
If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS e-services portal or an organization closely linked to the IRS, report it by sending it to email@example.com. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This is true to text messages and social media channels.
Additionally agents will never call and threaten you and demand immediate payment. The IRS Inspector General warned consumers that con artists use common names, fake badge numbers, and may even know the last four digits of your Social Security number. The Caller ID could read out Washington, D.C. or even IRS, but that’s fake, too. Don’t let any of that scare you. They use fear and intimidation to try and get you to bend to their will.
“We are making progress in the investigation of this scam, resulting in the successful prosecution of some individuals associated with it over the past year,” said Inspector General J. Russell George. “A ringleader was sentenced to more than 14 years in federal prison. However, this is still a matter of high investigative priority.”
The con artists use common names, fake badge numbers, and may even know the last four digits of your Social Security number. The Caller ID could read out Washington, D.C. or even IRS, but that’s fake, too. Don’t let any of that scare you. They use fear and intimidation to try and get you to bend to their will. Be stronger than them and if you have questions, just give us a call. We’ll be happy to help. By sticking together, we can outsmart the crooks!