The annual tax season has also become a season to be alert for phishing emails that appear to be messages from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Scammers use email, websites, and even social media to trick taxpayers into sharing personal and financial information, which they can use to steal your identity. Meant to either frighten or entice, these fraudulent messages may threaten a tax audit or offer a tax refund.
The IRS generally does not send unsolicited e-mails to taxpayers or request financial account security information, such as PIN numbers. They also will not discuss tax account information with taxpayers via e-mail or use it to request sensitive financial and personal information from taxpayers.
Signs of a tax scam
Scams may appear legitimate and some may even use the IRS logo. But the warning signs that you've received a fraudulent message may include:
- Requests for personal and/or financial information, such as your Social Security number and bank or credit card account numbers.
- Tempting offers that might persuade you to click on links or respond to messages.
- Threats that suggest consequences for not responding to the email.
- Incorrect grammar, spelling or phrasing especially when referencing the IRS or other government agencies and links to inaccurate URLs. Rather than relying on links listed in the message, manually type the URL for the official IRS website directly into your browser address bar to find out more or follow up on questions about your taxes.
If you receive an online message you suspect is a scam, the IRS suggests taking the following steps:
- Do not open any attachments or click any links. These could lead you to a fake IRS website, where opening a link could download malware or allow someone to hack into your computer.
- Ignore messages that offer a refund. Instead, go to the IRS's Where's My Refund? site to determine if you are actually receiving a refund.
- Forward the message or web address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Delete the message.
The IRS also provides additional information about precautions to take if you receive messages that appear to be from the agency.
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