Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Scammers use Fax and E-mail to Pose as IRS

In a new press release, the IRS warns taxpayers to be aware of a few new scammers who are using fax and e-mail to pose as representatives of the IRS. Below are the main scams the IRS is warning about, but you can read the full release at Scammers Use e-Mail, Fax to Pose as IRS.

Refund e-Mail Scam

There are several variations of the refund scam, in which an e-mail claiming to come from the IRS falsely informs the recipient that he or she is eligible for a tax refund for a specific amount. The bogus e-mail instructs the recipient to click on a link to access a refund claim form. The form requests personal information that the scammers can use to access the e-mail recipient’s bank or credit card account.

This notification is phony. The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mail about tax account matters to taxpayers.

Filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a tax refund; there is no separate application form. Taxpayers who wish to find out if they are due a refund from their last annual tax return filing may use the Where’s My Refund? interactive application on this Web site. is the only official IRS Web site.

Economic Stimulus Payments Scam

In this scam, a taxpayer receives an e-mail pretending to come from the IRS which tells the recipient he or she is eligible for an economic stimulus payment. The message recommends direct deposit into the taxpayer’s checking or savings account. To receive the payment, recipients must click on a link to complete and submit an online form by a certain date; otherwise, the e-mail warns, payment may be delayed. The form requests personal and financial data, including checking or savings account numbers that the scammers can use to gain access to the accounts.

In reality, the way members of the public receive their economic stimulus payment is to file a tax return with the IRS, not a special form. Additionally, the IRS does not request personal or financial information via e-mail.

Substitute Form 1040 Fax Scam

This scam consists of a cover letter and form that are faxed, rather than e-mailed. The cover letter is addressed “Dear Valued Tax Payer (sic)” and appears to be signed by an IRS employee. The letter says that the IRS is updating its files and that recipients who supply the requested information will receive a nominal tax refund. It also states that those who fail to immediately return the completed form risk additional tax and withholding. The attached form is labeled a substitute Form 1040 and is titled “Certificate of Current Status of Beneficial Owner For United States Tax Recertification & Withholding.” It requests a large amount of detailed personal and financial information, such as mother’s maiden name (often used in security screening), bank account numbers, estimated assets and more. It asks the recipient to sign and fax back the completed form, as well as a copy of the recipient’s driver’s license and passport.

Company Report Scam

This e-mail appears to come from an e-mail address, addresses recipients by name and references the company the recipient works for. These personalized details may convince the recipient that the e-mail is legitimate. The e-mail says that the IRS has a report on the company and asks the recipient to review a copy by clicking on a link to download the report. However, when the link is clicked, malware is downloaded to the recipient’s computer.

There are various types of malware, which can hijack a victim’s computer hard drive to give someone remote access to the computer, search for passwords and other information and send them to the scammer, or cause other types of identity theft or damage.

The IRS does not compile reports on companies or send e-mails to company staff asking them to review a report. Generally, the IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails to taxpayers.

Tax Court Scam

In this scam, an e-mail that appears to come from the U.S. Tax Court contains a petition involving a court case between the IRS and the recipient. The document instructs the recipient to download other files. The downloads transfer malware, or malicious code, to the recipient’s computer.

There are various types of malware, which, for example, can hijack a victim’s computer hard drive to give someone remote access to the computer, or can search for passwords and other information and send them to the scammer.

The truth is that the Tax Court is not e-mailing notices to anyone who currently has a case before the court. Visit the court’s Web site at for more information. Recipients are advised to avoid clicking on any links in the e-mail and to delete the e-mail.

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