The IRS is warning consumers to be alert to email schemes seeking to gain persthe IRS and other tax departments will never send you an unsolicited email.onal information. There has been a 400% increase in phishing and malware incidents reported to the IRS so far this tax season, more than all incidents in 2014. In addition, the 1,389 incidents reported so far this year are more than halfway to matching the total incidents for all of 2015. Considering we’re not even finished with February yet, that is a large increase.

The phony communications are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking they are official communications from the IRS or other tax departments. The communication may be in the form of a phone call, text, email, or even through social media. The communications may, according to the IRS, “seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.”

Phone calls

My father-in-law was a recipient of one of these calls. The caller told him she was from the IRS and he was being sued. She offered to stop the lawsuit if he paid the “amount due” immediately through the use of a prepaid debit card or a bank transfer. Thankfully, my father-in-law talked to me before doing anything and he did not become a victim.

The IRS or your state tax department will never call you and demand money. If you receive one of these phone calls, the best plan, in my opinion, is to hang up immediately. The IRS suggests you ask for the person’s name, badge number, and call back number. Then call the real IRS at 1-800-366-4484 to find out if the person is a real IRS employee and had a reason to contact you. If they are not, report the incident to the IRS.

Text or social media messages

These messages appear to be official from the IRS or other tax department. They may say something similar to what the caller told my father-in-law or they may ask for personal information or say something about your refund. There may also be a link in the message or an attachment.

Just like the phone calls, the IRS or other tax department will not send you a text or social media messages. If you receive one of these messages, do not reply to it, do not click on the link or open the attachment. Delete the message immediately. The IRS suggests, before deleting the text, to forward it to them at 202-552-1226.

Email messages

Phony email messages may be the most dangerous of the false communications. The emails appear to be official and may have a seal that resembles the one the IRS uses. The emails will have something in the message line that is designed to make the recipient think the email is legitimate:

  • Something about your refund.
  • Mention your W-2.
  • Ask you to confirm your personal information.
  • Ask you to complete your tax return information.

The message usually will ask you to update your information by clicking on a link in the email. Clicking on the link will take you to a website that appears to look like the official IRS page. The site will ask you to enter your Social Security number and other personal information. Often, the link and/or the site has malware that can infect your computer or mobile device and allow the criminal to gain access to your computer or mobile device, access your files, and track your keystrokes. Very dangerous!

Again, the IRS and other tax departments will never send you an unsolicited email. If you receive one of these emails, report it by forwarding the email to [email protected]. Then delete the email from your inbox and also from your trash box.

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Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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