E-mails from the IRS and other tax scams
Question: I received an e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, asking for my bank account information to deposit my refund. I’m almost positive it’s a scam. How can I find out for sure, and how can I report it if it is fraudulent?
Answer: It’s a scam — and one that’s common around tax season. The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by phone or e-mail.
Most people know to be suspicious of calls and e-mails claiming to be from the IRS and asking for your money or personal information. But the crooks are getting smarter and introducing a new level of tax-related schemes, which are especially prevalent this time of year as people file their tax returns and await their refunds.
And people are even more susceptible to scams this year because of confusion about the new tax law. In the most common tax scams, IRS impostors claim that you owe money and threaten lawsuits or arrest if you don’t pay immediately by credit card, or by wiring the money or sending a prepaid debit card or gift card.
They have even started to spoof caller IDs to make it look like the call is from Washington, D.C., the U.S. Treasury, or your state or local department of revenue.
Be aware, if you owe money, you’ll receive a notice from the IRS in the mail first. And the agency does not demand that you pay taxes without a chance to question or appeal the amount it says you owe.
As you discovered, at this time of year scam artists are also sending e-mails that look like official IRS correspondence asking for your bank account information to directly deposit your refund. Some e-mails include a link to a website that looks legitimate, but is just a way to gather your information and steal your money or identity.
Con artists also send e-mails claiming to be from your tax software company or tax professional, asking for information related to your refund or confirming personal information. The e-mail may ask you to update your “IRS e-file information immediately” to prevent a delay of your refund.
NOTE: The IRS will never send an e-mail asking for your personal or financial information.
You can report these phishing scams (scams aimed at tricking you into relinquishing personal ID information) at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you think there’s a chance that the correspondence may be legitimate, don’t click on any links or respond. Instead, look up the phone number of your tax preparer or tax software company separately and call them to check.
For more information about scams targeting taxpayers — including a frequently updated list of common scams — see www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scamsconsumer-alerts.
© 2018 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.