Email Tax Fraud Scams On the Rise This Year

February 29, 2016 • Author: Salin Bank

The fake emails are designed to trick taxpayers into believing they are receiving official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The people behind these emails often try to get their intended victims to provide information related to tax refunds, filing status, confirm personal information, order transcripts, and verify PIN information. Once this information is obtained, the scammer may use it to file a false tax return.
 
The IRS warns that when people click on the links in these fake emails, they may be taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking Web site like IRS.gov. The sites then ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information. These sites also may contain malware, which can infect your computer and allow criminals to access files or track your keystrokes to gain information about you.  
 
Variations of these scams are being reported in every section of the country, according to recent statistics from the IRS. And, the numbers of incidents are growing:
  •  There were 1,026 incidents reported in January, up from 254 from a year earlier.
  • The trend continued in February, nearly doubling the reported number of incidents compared to one year ago.
  • A total of 363 incidents were reported from Feb. 1-16, compared to the 201 incidents reported for the entire month of February 2015.
  • This year's 1,389 incidents already top the 2014 yearly total of 1,361, and they are halfway to matching the 2015 total of 2,748.
 

Red Flags                                                            

If you do receive an official-looking email from what appears to be an official source, whether the IRS or someone in the tax industry, the real IRS urges people never to click on the links but instead send the email to phishing@irs.gov.
 
In addition, be on the look-out for any email containing subject lines or underlying text with the following references:
  • Numerous variations about people's tax refund.
  • Update your filing details, which can include references to W-2.
  • Confirm your personal information.
  • Get my IP Pin.
  • Get my E-file Pin.
  • Order a transcript.
  • Complete your tax return information.
The bottom line: The IRS generally 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. If you find such an email in your in-box, consider it a red flag. Immediately forward the suspicious communication to phishing@irs.gov. You also can call the IRS directly at 1.800.829.1040 to see if it is indeed trying to reach you. Once you’ve taken these steps, simply click “delete” on the email in question.