IRS News Release IR-2008-11.
The IRS is warning taxpayers to beware of several current e-mail and telephone scams that use the IRS name as a lure. The IRS expects such scams to continue through the end of tax return filing season and beyond. The goal of the scams is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers, which the scammers can use to commit identity theft.
Typically, identity thieves use a victim's personal and financial data to empty the victim's financial accounts, run up charges on the victim's existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim's name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commit crimes. Most of these fraudulent activities can be committed electronically from a remote location, including overseas. Committing these activities in cyberspace allows thieves to act quickly and cover their tracks before the victim becomes aware of the theft.
Key point. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years, and considerable expense, cleaning up the mess that thieves have made of their reputations and credit records. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, may be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.
The most recent scams identified by the IRS are described below.
(1) Rebate phone call
Consumers receive phone calls from persons identifying themselves as IRS employees. The callers tell victims that they are eligible for a sizable rebate for filing their taxes early. Victims are then asked to share their bank account information so the IRS can make a direct deposit of their rebate to their bank account.
(2) Refund e-mail
A bogus e-mail, allegedly from the IRS, informs the recipient that he or she is eligible for a tax refund for a specific amount, and instructs the recipient to click on a link in the e-mail to access a refund claim form. The form asks the recipient to enter personal information that the thieves can then use to access the e-mail recipient's bank or credit card account. The IRS never sends unsolicited e-mail about tax account matters to individuals.
Key point. Filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a tax refund; there is no separate application form.
(3) Audit e-mail
Another new scam contains features not seen before by the IRS. Using a technique calculated to get almost anyone's attention, the e-mail notifies the recipient that his or her tax return will be audited. In addition, the e-mail may contain a salutation in the body addressed to the specific recipient by name. Most scam e-mails seen by the IRS are sent using the same technique used by spammers, in which hundreds of thousands of messages are sent to potential victims based on Internet addresses. Because of the volume, the typical scam e-mail is not personalized.
This e-mail instructs the recipient to click on links to complete forms with personal and account information, which the scammers will use to commit identity theft. This e-mail is a phony. The IRS does not send unsolicited, tax-account related e-mails to taxpayers.
(4) Status of "IRS checks"
In a current telephone scam, a caller claims to be an IRS employee who is calling because the IRS sent a check to the individual being called. The caller states that because the check has not been cashed, the IRS wants to verify the individual's bank account number.
Persons who have received a questionable e-mail claiming to come from the IRS may forward it to a mailbox the IRS has established to receive such e-mails, email@example.com, using instructions contained in an article on the IRS website (IRS.gov) titled "How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes." Following the instructions will help the IRS track the suspicious e-mail to its origins and shut down the scam. Find the article by visiting IRS.gov and entering the words "suspicious e-mails" into the search box in the upper right corner of the front page.
Those who have received a questionable telephone call that claims to come from the IRS may also use the firstname.lastname@example.org mailbox to notify the IRS of the scam.