Identity thieves sometimes masquerade as someone from the IRS to obtain your personal details such as your credit card and bank account numbers and passwords. With this information, the scammer may do a whole lot of things like make credit card purchases, apply for loans or even make false tax returns. Usually, the identity thief will try to obtain your information through the phone, fax or email. When such communication comes through an email, it is commonly known as ‘phishing’.
In view of this, the IRS has issued an official alert to everyone to beware of such schemes. It has made it clear that your tax issues will never be discussed with you via email.
Some recent scams were:
The Making Work Pay Refund
You might receive an email stating that you are entitled to a refund under the Making Work Pay benefit of the 2009 economic recovery law. To obtain the refund, you would have to submit your bank account details to the IRS. You will be given a link that takes you to a form you are to fill up with your banking particulars.
In reality, the Making Work Pay tax credit comes in your paycheck if you’re a wage earner, not as a lump sum reimbursement.
Inheritance/Lottery Winnings/Cash Consignments
This is probably the oldest trick in the book where you receive an email purportedly from a federal agency informing you that you have been left an inheritance or won a lottery or given a cash consignment worth millions of dollars. To claim your money you need to disclose certain personal details including your telephone number by replying to the email.
Using a slightly amended IRS W8BEN form, the Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, scammers try to obtain your personal details like nationality, passport or bank account number, PIN number, spouse’s name or mother’s maiden name. The fake W8BEN form may be emailed or faxed to you. Alternatively, you might receive a letter supposedly from the IRS stating that you will have to pay additional taxes unless you fax over your personal information.
The real way for it to happen is where you file your genuine W8BEN form with your financial institution, not the IRS. Furthermore, the real W8BEN form never requests for your passport number, bank account number etc.
This is the most common bogus IRS-related scheme to obtain your personal details. You receive an email that’s supposed to be from the IRS saying you are eligible for a tax refund if you click on a link and fill in your personal details in the form that follows.
In reality, tax refunds are never given through filling up a form. It is computed and paid through your own tax returns.
How to Smell a Rat
An email that requests for an unusual amount of personal details like your name, bank account number, credit card number or security-related information like your mother’s maiden name.
Some kind of incentive for you to respond to the email such as a tax refund or payment to participate in an IRS survey. Alternatively, it might take the form of a bad consequence for not responding to the email such as being levied additional taxes.
Wrong details or grammar errors in the message.
A suspicious looking link that does not start with the actual IRS website URL (http://www.irs.gov).
What to Do
Do not open any attachments that come with the email. It may jeopardize your computer system. For the same reason, do not click on any links in the email.
Contact the IRS by telephone to find out if they are really trying to get in touch with you.
Forward the email and URL address to the IRS mailbox, email@example.com then delete the email.
Remember that the IRS website is http://www.irs.gov and that all genuine IRS webpage URLs begin with http://www.irs.gov/.
Check out more IRS Reports stories by clicking that link.
Law Offices of Darrin T. Mish, P.A.: Tax Attorney