Tax Return IRS Emails Are Scam
August 23, 2011 (Tulsa World) Dear Action Line: We're getting emails from the IRS asking for further information on our tax return. Our refund was direct- deposited by the agency months ago. Should we answer this email's questions? - R.P., Tulsa.
Absolutely not. It's a scam that has been pestering the Internal Revenue Service for years. The tax collection agency does not send unsolicited emails to taxpayers, either about their tax accounts or requesting sensitive personal and financial information, said agency spokesman David Stell.
Nevertheless, taxpayers do receive emails that appear to have come from the IRS, sometimes containing a real or made-up employee name, address and similar information to make the emails appear legitimate.
"These emails usually are scams designed to obtain personal and financial information - such as the recipient's full name, Social Security number, bank account and credit card or PIN numbers," Stell said.
This taxpayer information can be used by scammers to commit identity theft. Identity thieves use the data to empty the victim's financial accounts, run up charges on the victim's credit cards; apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim's name or even file fraudulent tax returns.
As is the case with the latter, the thief uses the victim's Social Security number to get a job and elects not to withhold any money for paying income taxes. The taxes owed are logged under the real number-holder's account, and the victim winds up owing taxes on money that the thief earned and kept.
IRS-impersonation scam emails say the IRS needs certain personal and financial information to process a tax return, tax payment or refund. These emails claim the recipient is being audited. They may mention specific monetary amounts or genuine programs, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, to add credible detail to the scam. The emails often contain links or attachments to what appears to be the IRS website or an IRS form. However genuine in appearance, these phonies are designed to elicit the information the scammers are looking for.
Equally sinister, links in scam emails download malicious software onto the taxpayer's computer when clicked. The software is often designed to search out and send back to the scammer personal and financial information contained on the taxpayer's computer or obtained through keystrokes the scammer uses to commit identity theft.
Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.
Unsolicited emails appearing to be from the IRS or an IRS- related component, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, should be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on consumer scams, see "Protect your personal information" at tulsaworld.com/irsphishing.