The April 15th IRS filing deadline looms right around the corner. As of today, you have one month to file if you haven’t done so already. With everyone pushing to complete their taxes, get ready for more phishing scams than usual.
According to the IRS, bogus phishing emails claiming to be the IRS increased by 60% in 2018. With 1,200 incidents in all of 2017, 2,000 scam incidents were reported just from January through October. Keep in mind that those are only the incidents that get reported to the IRS. The actual number is likely much, much higher.
What to Watch Out For
A typical phishing scheme aims to obtain your personal information. The email looks authentic. Email addresses are spoofed so that they appear to be coming from “irs.gov”. They often include the IRS logos as well, adding to the authenticity. The subject line varies but often includes “IRS Important Notice” or “IRS Taxpayer Notice”. If you see any of these things, pay careful attention going forward.
Within one of these emails, you may find links to help you resolve the “issue”. These links will take you to a site that looks legitimate. This site asks you to fill out a form with your personal information such as name, birthdate, SSN, or other information. Those that provide the information are at risk of having their tax refund stolen or worse.
Sometimes, the email may come with a PDF attachment. Often, the filename includes the word “statement” or something sounds like it needs your attention. No one wants trouble with the IRS, so they open it. Unfortunately, that file will contain malware or other malicious software. Do NOT open them. This type of attack can target your entire device and move on from there.
Besides email phishing, scammers have been so bold as to call posing as the IRS. Typically, they’ve gathered enough information about you that it seems believable. You may be told that you owe money to the IRS. Non-payment comes with threats of arrest, license suspension, and even deportation. On the other side, you may be told that you’re owed a refund, and they just need your banking information. Never give them any information.
These scams have become so prevalent that the IRS has publicly stated the following on their website:
The IRS does not:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
- Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
Be On Guard
If you’re in doubt about a message, don’t reply or click on any links. Don’t open any files. Forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete it. For suspected scam phone calls, report them to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484. More information about scams involving the IRS is available on the IRS website. You can also learn how to identify phishing emails from one of our previous posts.
If 2019 follows the trend of 2018, more scamming attempts are coming. Be careful with your information and with whom you share it. You already have to pay taxes to the government. Don’t pay the scammers too.
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