With tax season in full swing and the filing deadline looming, the IRS is warning of email scams aimed at obtaining personal information from taxpayers for the purpose of identity theft.
In the phishing schemes, people are sent emails that appear to be from the IRS or bogus affiliated agencies. One email currently circulating appears to be from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, and it requests the taxpayer’s name, address, bank account numbers, and other information. This particular scheme has been around for years and continues through variations in the text of the email. Often, these emails tell readers that their tax return has been flagged because of a processing error, or that they are due an unspecified refund. When the user clicks the provided link, they are directed to a website that asks for personal information.
Late last year, the IRS warned of a phone phishing scam, in which call recipients were informed that they owed money to the IRS, and that the money must be promptly paid through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. According to the IRS, the caller becomes hostile if the recipient refuses to pay, and he or she threatens arrest, deportation, revocation of a professional license, or suspension of a driver’s license.
In a press release about the scam, IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel noted, “This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”
The IRS also notes that the agency does not solicit personal information from taxpayers via email, nor are any tax refunds issued through email. Rather, all tax refunds are issued through the filing of a tax return. According to its website, “The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.”
- Phone: Ask for an employee badge number and call back number. Contact the IRS to determine if the person has a legitimate need to talk to you. If so, call back. If not, report the caller to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
- Mail: Contact the IRS to determine if the letter is legitimate. If not, report the caller to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
- Text or SMS: Do not reply, open any attachments, or click any links. Forward the text to 202-552-1226, then submit a second text including the number from which the bogus text originated.
During tax season, it is enough to keep your own tax return in order without having the additional complications of becoming a victim of identity theft. Remember that the IRS does not initiate contact soliciting personal information via email. If you receive phone calls or letters that appear to be from the IRS, verify their legitimacy before responding.