IRS Warns Taxpayers of Phone Scam, Suspicious E-Mails and Phishing Schemes
The IRS has issued several recent consumer warnings on the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to taxpayers’ financial information in order to steal their identity and assets. The IRS does NOT contact taxpayers by e-mail, text messaging, or social media! Also, the IRS does NOT usually contact people by telephone about unpaid taxes without first sending a bill by mail.
A recent phone scam targets people across the nation, including recent immigrants. The callers claim to be from the IRS and tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation, loss of a business or driver’s license. Just remember, the IRS usually contacts people by mail about unpaid taxes, NOT telephone. Also, the IRS will NEVER ask for payment over the phone using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
Phony e-mails claiming to come from the IRS has been circulating in large numbers. These e-mails may contain attachments or links to bogus websites directing taxpayers to enter their personal information, such as their Social Security number, date of birth, and credit card information. In either case, when the recipient opens the attachments or clicks on the links, they may download a Trojan horse-type of virus to their computers.
Malicious code (also known as malware), of which the Trojan horse is but one example, can take over the victim’s computer hard drive, giving someone remote access to the computer, or it could look for passwords and other information and send them to the scammer. The scammer will then use whatever information they gather to commit identity theft, gain access to bank accounts and more.
The IRS does NOT send unsolicited e-mails to taxpayers about their tax accounts! Anyone who receives an unsolicited e-mail claiming to come from the IRS should avoid opening any attachments or clicking on any links. You can report suspicious e-mails you receive which claim to come from the IRS and suspicious phone calls to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Phishing?
Phishing, as in “fishing for information” and “hooking” victims is the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, phishers send an e-mail or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you may deal with — for example, an Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message may ask you to “update,” “validate,” or “confirm” your account information. Some phishing e-mails threaten a dire consequence if you don’t respond. The messages direct you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site; however, it is not a legitimate website! It is a bogus website which is setup for the sole purpose of tricking you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
What to Do if You Become Aware of an IRS Related Phishing Scam?
The IRS is very concerned and aware of suspicious emails and phishing schemes. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail communication claiming to be from the IRS, please forward the message to email@example.com. It is important that the original communication that was received is included, as well as Internet headers. The IRS can use the information found in the e-mail such as URLs and links to trace the hosting website and alert authorities to help shut down the fraudulent sites.
NOTE: You may not receive an individual response to your e-mail because of the volume of reports the IRS receives each day.
What to Do if You Fall Victim to Identity Theft?
Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and also review your credit reports. You just need to contact ONE of the three major credit bureaus (they will automatically contact the other two bureaus for you) to place a fraud alert on your credit file and request a free copy of your credit report: Equifax: (800)525-6285 or www.Equifax.com, TransUnion: (800) 680-7289 or www.TransUnion.com or Experian: (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com
File a police report
Contact any financial institutions for which your personal information (such as account numbers) may have been compromised
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
Visit the Following IRS Links for More Information