Fraud Alerts to Consumers

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Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts

 

Consumer Alert: IRS Warns Taxpayers, Tax Pros of New Email Scam Targeting Hotmail Users

IR-2017-203, Dec. 13, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers and tax professionals of a new email scam targeting Hotmail users that is being used to steal personal and financial information.
The phishing email subject line reads: “Internal Revenue Service Email No. XXXX | We’re processing your request soon | TXXXXXX-XXXXXXXX”. The email leads taxpayers to sign in to a fake Microsoft page and then asks for personal and financial information.
The IRS has received over 900 complaints about this new phishing scheme that seems to exclusively target Hotmail users. The suspect websites associated with this scam have been shut down, but taxpayers should be on the lookout for similar schemes.
Individuals who receive unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS should forward it to phishing@irs.gov and then delete it. It is important to keep in mind the IRS generally does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. For more information, visit the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on IRS.gov.

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Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals.
The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Recognize the telltale signs of a scam. See also: 
How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door

Scams Targeting Taxpayers

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams

A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Some thieves have used video relay services (VRS) to try to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Taxpayers are urged not trust calls just because they are made through VRS, as interpreters don’t screen calls for validity. For details see the IRS video: Tax Scams via Video Relay Service.
Limited English Proficiency victims are often approached in their native language, threatened with deportation, police arrest and license revocation, among other things. IRS urges all taxpayers caution before paying unexpected tax bills. Please see: IRS Alerts Taxpayers with Limited English Proficiency of Ongoing Phone Scams. Note that the IRS doesn't:
  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Soliciting Form W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals.

The IRS has established a process that will allow businesses and payroll service providers to quickly report any data losses related to the W-2 scam currently making the rounds. If notified in time, the IRS can take steps to prevent employees from being victimized by identity thieves filing fraudulent returns in their names. There also is information about how to report receiving the scam email.
Report these schemes:
Employers are urged to put protocols in place for the sharing of sensitive employee information such as Forms W-2. The W-2 scam is just one of several new variations that focus on the large-scale thefts of sensitive tax information from tax preparers, businesses and payroll companies.
Tax professionals who experience a data breach also should quickly report the incident to the IRS. See details at Data Theft Information for Tax Professionals.
Also see:

Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes

Phishing (as in “fishing for information”) is a scam where fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity.
The IRS has issued several alerts about the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information to steal their identity and assets.
Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes may seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Be alert to bogus emails that appear to come from your tax professional, requesting information for an IRS form. IRS doesn’t require Life Insurance and Annuity updates from taxpayers or a tax professional. Beware of this scam.
Variations can be seen via text messages. The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that include links to bogus web sites intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” These emails are not from the IRS.
The sites may ask for information used to file false tax returns or they may carry malware, which can infect computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
For more details, see:
Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from a related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
For more information, visit the IRS's Report Phishing web page.

Fraudsters Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

Some taxpayers receive emails that appear to be from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) about a tax refund. These emails are a phishing scam, trying to trick victims into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click any link. If you receive this scam, forward it to phishing@irs.gov and note that it seems to be a scam phishing for your information.
TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information.

Additional Recent Tax Scams

Email Scam Targeting Hotmail Users
FBI Themed Ransomware Scam

Last-Minute Email Scams

Fictitious “Federal Student Tax” scam targeting students and parents and demanding payment.

Automated calls requesting tax payments in the form of iTunes or other gift cards.

 Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry.

How to Report Tax-Related Schemes, Scams, Identity Theft and Fraud

To report tax-related illegal activities, refer to our chart explaining the types of activity and the appropriate forms or other methods to use. You should also report instances of IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

Additional Scam-Related Information:

IRS YouTube Videos on Tax Scams:

 







It is key to remember that the Internal Revenue Service does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal and financial information. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.  Recipients of questionable e-mails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the e-mails. Instead they should forward the e-mails to phishing@irs.gov.