The IRS doesn't send unsolicited emails at all, and it certainly doesn't email taxpayers about the status of their refunds. That's the first thing you need to know if you receive an email that looks like it came from the IRS.
The agency and its Security Summit partners just announced a new email phishing scam that taxpayers have reported to their [email protected] email address. Phishing is when a scammer attempts to convince a victim to turn over valuable personal information that could be used against them.
While the emails' subject lines may vary, some have been reported with subject lines such as "Electronic Tax Return Reminder" or "Automatic Income Tax Reminder." Inside, the emails contain links to a spoofed version of the IRS's website. They also may contain certain personal details the scammers have already uncovered by other means.
A typical example of the phishing email contained a temporary or one-time password that purportedly allows access to a tax refund. However, clicking on the links or entering the password could cause malicious software to download onto your computer. The malicious software may be, for example, a keystroke monitor that would eventually give the scammer access to your personal data and passwords.
According to the IRS, the scam involves dozens of compromised websites and URLs in an effort to convince the taxpayer that the email is actually from the IRS.
'Tax scams are a year-round business,' says IRS commissioner
This is only one of many schemes to use the reputation of the IRS to get people to part with their hard-earned money. People are caught up in these schemes year-round, according to the commissioner.
Whenever you receive a purported contact from the IRS, keep in mind that the agency is very conservative about how it contacts people. It never initiates conversations via email, text message or social media. In general, your first contact from the IRS would be in the form of a letter in the mail.
Additionally, the IRS stresses that it would never request a PIN number, password or other information in order to access an account. And, if it were to contact you for payment of a tax account, it would not specify an unusual payment method such as a wire transfer or prepaid credit card.
Be on guard whenever someone uses email or the internet to demand money for any reason. Don't click on links that are provided. Instead, go directly to the agency's actual website, irs.gov, or call the IRS for help.
Tax scammers are actively working to deprive you of your money. Don't let them.