DON’T GET TRICKED BY BOGUS EMAIL FROM THE ‘IRS’
Glenn Bailey, CPA
As sure as the sun will rise in the morning, a phishing scam alleging to be from the IRS will appear in your e-mail box. Since most everyone has some dealing with the IRS and filing taxes, You are a popular target for scammers who count on people to take the bait and click on the links. Fear of the IRS or an audit can make normally cautious people panic and click through the emails without fully considering the ramifications.
The IRS issues repeated warnings about these emails.
The most recent one relates to a message that a payment was rejected by the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) and asks you to click on a link to review the transaction.
Prior IRS alerts have been issued for messages that a personal tax return or a personal tax payment was rejected by IRS, or that a refund is available for you.
Each scam message asks you to click on a link or visit a website. These links generally seek to capture your personal and financial information or download software to your computer that will capture this information.
Scam activities are highest during March every year since that is peak tax filing season and taxpayers may be more susceptible to clicking on a message from IRS.
The key facts to remember are these:
1) The IRS does not initiate e-mail communication with taxpayers regarding EFTPS or tax account matters. They generally would not have your email address as it is not normally part of a tax filing. Legitimate IRS communications come by postal mail and in rare instances by telephone. If you do receive a legitimate phone call from the IRS it would be because you have already exchanged written correspondence with them on an issue and provided them your phone number to call.
2) All unsolicited e-mails that claim to be from the IRS or an IRS-related area, such as EFTPS, should be reported to: [email protected]. The [email protected] mailbox is only for suspicious e-mails and not for general taxpayer contact or inquiries. IRS will not acknowledge receipt or reply to any submission to this address.
3) IRS never asks for pin numbers, passwords or similar secret access information.
IRS Publication 4523 outlines information about how to avoid and how to report suspected phishing or other fraudulent communications.
The IRS also provides a list of various suspicious IRS communications and their suggestion of how to respond. The list is provided at http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=179820,00.html
For information on preventing or handling the aftermath of identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer and OnGuardOnLine Web sites. Click on “Topics” to find the identity theft and phishing areas on OnGuardOnLine.