The Internal Revenue Service has issued a new consumer alert for tax email scams after noticing an approximate 400 percent increase in phishing and malware incidents so far during this tax season.
The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking they are official communications from the IRS or other professionals in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes could ask taxpayers a wide range of topics. E-mails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Variations of these scams can also be seen via text messages, and these types pf communications are being reported in every area of the country.
“This dramatic jump in these scams comes at the busiest time of tax season,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Watch out for fraudsters slipping these official-looking emails into inboxes, trying to confuse people at the very time they work on their taxes. We urge people not to click on these emails.”
During the 2015 tax season, the IRS has observed fraudsters more often asking for personal tax information, which could be used to help file false tax returns.
When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate official-looking ones, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information. The sites also may carry malware that may infect personal computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
The IRS has seen an increase in reported phishing and malware schemes as well, including:
- There were 1,026 incidents reported in January, up from 254 the previous tax year.
- The trend continued in February, nearly doubling in the reported number of incidents compared to a year ago. In all, 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 have already topped the 2014 yearly total of 1,361, and they are halfway to matching the 2015 total of 2,748.
As such email scams surge, the IRS is working on this issue through the Security Summit initiative with state revenue departments and the tax industry. Many software companies, tax professionals and state revenue departments have seen variations in the schemes.
For example, tax professionals are also reporting phishing scams that seek their online credentials to IRS services, for example the IRS Tax Professional PTIN System.
If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS e-services portal or an organization closely linked to the IRS, report it by sending it to [email protected].
It is important to keep in mind the IRS generally does not establish contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This also includes any type of electronic communication, like text messages and social media.
Check out the last IRS Phishing Scam news release for more info on this worrying trend.
If you have questions about email tax scams or other tax issues, don’t hesitate to call experienced CPAs like Scott A. Kunkel, CPA, PC today in North Richland Hills at 817-498-1040 to help.
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Source: CPA Practice Advisor