Phishers and Internet scammers are always coming up with innovative new ways to separate victims from their money. One of their favorite tactics is to prey on victims' fears about taxes by posing as the IRS. It's natural to worry if you get an email from somebody purporting to be the IRS, particularly in the month of January when you're probably receiving a lot of legitimate communications from your employer and the IRS about filing. Here are a couple of tax scams that at first glance might seem official. Don't be fooled!
The "underreported income" threat
. This scam features an email accusing the recipient of having underreported their income. The sender attaches what they say is a copy of their relevant page of their tax return. The "attachment" is actually an executable file that downloads a malicious file to the user's machine.
The "Making Work Pay" scam.
This phishing email uses the Making Work Pay provision of last year's stimulus package to entice people into giving up their personal information. The email asks the recipient to go to a website and fill out a form so that the IRS can deposit money into their bank account. In reality, the Making Work Pay provision does not directly provide funds to taxpayers; instead, it gives wage earners a tax credit in the form of reduced withholding. This is nothing but an attempt by identity thieves to get your personal information.
The "refund" scam.
This oldie but goodie promises the recipient a quick and easy tax refund if they provide their personal information and details about their financial institution. Instead of getting a tax refund, the victim risks serious damage to their credit by identity thieves.
Note that all of these scams arrive by email. Many of them will direct the victim to a web page or form that looks official and credible. Don't fall for it! The IRS never discusses official tax matters over the Internet
- they use the good old-fashioned US Postal Service if they want to reach you. If you get an email that purports to be from the IRS, do not open any attachments or click on any links. Forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org
, then delete the email from your inbox. And if you have any doubt about an email's legitimacy, you can always send it on to us at email@example.com
to get our expert opinion.