It is tax time and the scammers are gearing up for one of their most profitable times of the year. Be on the lookout for e-mails and regular mail looking like it comes from the IRS offering rebates and other services.
The bogus e-mail, which claims to come from the IRS, tells the recipient that he or she is eligible to receive a tax refund for a given amount. It instructs the recipient to click on a link contained in the e-mail to access and complete a form for the tax refund. The form requires the entry of personal and financial information. The refund scam is the most common one seen by the IRS. Several recent variations on this scam have claimed to come from the Exempt Organizations area of the IRS. Some others have included the name and purported signature of a genuine or a made-up IRS executive.
Taxpayers do not have to complete a special form to obtain a refund. Taxpayer refunds are based on the tax return they submit to the IRS.
How to Spot a Scam
Many e-mail scams are fairly sophisticated and hard to detect. However, there are signs to watch for, such as an e-mail that:
- Requests detailed or an unusual amount of personal and\or financial information, such as name, SSN, bank or credit card account numbers or security-related information, such as mother’s maiden name, either in the e-mail itself or on another site to which a link in the e-mail sends the recipient.
- Dangles bait to get the recipient to respond to the e-mail, such as mentioning a tax refund or offering to pay the recipient to participate in an IRS survey.
- Threatens a consequence for not responding to the e-mail, such as additional taxes or blocking access to the recipient’s funds.
- Gets the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agency names wrong.
- Uses incorrect grammar or odd phrasing (many of the e-mail scams originate overseas and are written by non-native English speakers).
- Uses a really long address in any link contained in the e-mail message or one that does not start with the actual IRS Web site address (www.irs.gov). To see the actual link address, or url, move the mouse over the link included in the text of the e-mail.
The scammers may use a web address that may look something like this:
www.irs.gov.usa\refund.gov or www.irs.gov.refund. Scammers can make any link look like it comes from the real site as well. Place your mouse curser over the link and read the popup box, it should list the actual web address you are being sent to. See example below, place your mouse over the link, we list the IRS but you will be directed to www.scamnot.org.:
What to Do
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited e-mail or ask for personal identifying or financial information via e-mail. If you receive a suspicious e-mail claiming to come from the IRS, take the following steps:
- Do not open any attachments to the e-mail, in case they contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
- Do not click on any links, for the same reason.
- Also, be aware that the links often connect to a phony IRS Web site that appears authentic and then prompts the victim for personal identifiers, bank or credit card account numbers or PINs. The phony Web sites appear legitimate because the appearance and much of the content are directly copied from an actual page on the IRS Web site and then modified by the scammers for their own purposes.
Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or visit www.irs.gov to determine whether the IRS is trying to contact you.