E-mail has become a convenient and effective communication tool in recent years. Unfortunately, it also provides scammers a way to target potential victims.
One scheme that has become very popular for scammers is a fraud practice called phishing.
Phishing is a form of fraud in which the scammer sends legitimate-looking E-mails and pretends to be a reputable business or agency, such as the IRS, to obtain important personal information. They are designed to trick the recipient into providing sensitive information so they can use this information to commit identity theft, run up charges on credit cards, and other fraudulent acts.
It is important to know that the IRS does not send E-mails to initiate contact with taxpayers. Instead, they send letters and notices by mail to taxpayers. If you receive an E-mail asking you to give confidential information and urging you to act immediately, you might be a target of a phishing scam.
IRS E-mail phishing scams contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The E-mails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”), though not IRS.gov (with a dot). These E-mails are not from the IRS. (https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts)
The safest thing to do when you receive a suspicious E-mail is do not click on the links or open any attachments and do not fill out any forms that ask for personal information.
IRS recommends forwarding the E-mail to the IRS mailbox to help stop phishing and prevent others from being victimized. Follow instructions in the link below for sending the bogus E-mail to ensure that it retains critical elements found in the original E-mail.
The IRS can use the information, URLs and links in the suspicious E-mails you send to trace the hosting Web site and alert authorities to help shut down the fraudulent sites. (https://www.irs.gov/uac/suspicious-e-mails-and-identity-theft)
How to protect yourself
Despite warnings from the IRS that they never ask taxpayers to confirm personal information by E-mail, people continue to give out personal information and fall into the trap of scammers. To protect yourself from becoming the next victim, never give out your personal information in reply to a suspicious E-mail such as:
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by E-mail, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action. Recognizing these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim. (https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts)