Criminals who dress up as cops sometimes get a whole lot of crimes done. Similarly, internet email scamsters have been pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service for a while as well.
In this scam, a criminal sends an email which is supposed to look like it’s from the IRS. This fraudulent email asks you to click on a link to review your account, get a refund, or something, but the goal is actually to extract from your personal information, by which your identity can be stolen, or to commit some other nefarious crime which will only hurt you (like perhaps to take control of your computer and use it as a zombie bot which becomes an unwitting conduit for spam).
In any event, this sort of scam, often to accomplish identity theft has been on the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” annual list of top tax scams for five years in a row … ever since 2006.
I just received one of these scam emails. it looks like this:
Taxpayer ID: arp-00000177112725US
Tax Type: INCOME TAX
Issue: Unreported/Underreported Income (Fraud Application)
Please review your tax statement on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website (click on the link below):
review tax statement for taxpayer id: arp-00000177112725US <http://www.irs.gov.foodyt.com.pl/fraud.applications/application/statement.php?email=[redacted]@[email-address-redacted].com&tid=arp-00000177112725US>
Internal Revenue Service
(Note that the email address shown in the quote above has been redacted].
The bottom line here is: don’t trust emails which claim to be from the IRS. The IRS does not communicate with taxpayers by email. An email which looks like its from the IRS is fake and nothing good can come from clicking on any link included in such an email.
For all the reasons there are to dislike and sometimes even distrust about the IRS and the way it behaves, it is on the right side of this issue. The IRS explains in its 2010 list of the “Dirty Dozen” tax scams that “phishing” is a serious problem and danger:
Phishing is a tactic used by scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information online. IRS impersonation schemes flourish during the filing season and can take the form of e-mails, tweets or phony Web sites. Scammers may also use phones and faxes to reach their victims.
Scam artists will try to mislead consumers by telling them they are entitled to a tax refund from the IRS and that they must reveal personal information to claim it. Criminals use the information they get to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name.
Taxpayers who receive suspicious e-mails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any of the links in the e-mail. Suspicious e-mails claiming to be from the IRS or Web addresses that do not begin with http://www.irs.gov should be forwarded to the IRS mailbox: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t believe and don’t fall for emails which claim to be from the IRS. They aren’t. And they only mean to do you harm.