Taxpayers Should Beware of Phony IRS Email
Over the next several weeks, taxpayers should be on high alert for tax scams that attempt to steal their income tax refunds and identities.|
Tax season is a particularly active time for identity thieves, because it provides an opportunity for criminals to create fraudulent emails and websites to trick taxpayers into divulging their sensitive financial information. Phishing scams give identity thieves access to all the information they need – Social Security numbers, names, addresses, employer information, investment account numbers – to steal taxpayers’ federal income tax refunds or open fraudulent accounts in a taxpayer’s name.
Tax scams can take many different forms. A recently uncovered phishing scam relies on a spam email that appears to come from the IRS. The fraudulent email claims that the recipient missed the deadline for filing a federal income tax return. The email falsely states that the deadline was Jan. 31, 2012. In an attempt to scare recipients, the email claims that the taxpayer could owe the IRS up to $10,000 for failing to submit their income tax return on time. The email references a bogus federal statute and provides a malicious link to a fake IRS website.
Taxpayers should remember that the IRS does not use email or text messages to contact taxpayers about issues related to their income tax returns. To help distinguish legitimate IRS communications from scams, the IRS typically contacts taxpayers through the U.S. Postal Service with letters that are printed on IRS stationery that is sealed in an IRS envelope. IRS letters also contain a telephone number for an IRS office that the taxpayer can contact with any questions.
Because of this year’s unusual IRS filing deadline, scam artists may attempt to take advantage. As most federal income taxpayers know, their returns must ordinarily be submitted to the IRS on April 15. However, this year the deadline for filing federal income tax returns is Tuesday, April 17. According to the IRS, the filing deadline was moved back because April 15 is a Sunday and April 16 is a holiday in Washington, D.C.
Taxpayers who receive an unsolicited email that claims to be from the IRS should:
• Never respond to the email.
• Never open any of the email’s attachments.
• Never click on any Web links that are in the email.
• Delete the email or report it to email@example.com.
ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.
Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.