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Phishing and Tax Scams

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Transcript for Phishing and Tax Scams

This is Jean Wetzler. I'm talking with Faris Fink from the Small Business/Self-Employed division about phishing and tax scams.

Faris, what do taxpayers need to know about emails that appear as if they came from the IRS?

There have been a recent wave of phishing, or phony emails made up to look like they come from the IRS. The goal is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as social security, bank account, and credit card numbers. Scammers use these to commit identity theft.

Can you give us an example of a typical phishing scam?

Refund scams are popular and there are several variations. Typically, a taxpayer will receive an email appearing to come from the IRS telling them they are eligible for a refund. The bogus message instructs the recipient to click on a link to a refund claim form. The form requests personal information the scammers can use to access the taxpayers bank or credit card account. Don't fall for it. The IRS does not send unsolicited emails about account matters and filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a refund. There is no separate application form. We do not discuss tax matters with taxpayers on email, and we definitely do not request personal or security-related information such as PINs.

Are there any scams in particular that small businesses should be alert to and warn their employees about?

There's a company report scam, where an email appears to come from an irs.gov email address. It includes a recipient name and company. The email says 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. Clicking on the link will cause malware to download. Malware is malicious software. It can hijack a hard drive, and give the perpetrator remote access to search for passwords and other information. We've even identified a fax phishing scam. This one consists of a cover letter and a form that are faxed rather than emailed, and asks the recipient to supply personal information.

How can taxpayers protect themselves?

Be alert to suspicious emails or faxes purporting to be from the IRS. Don't reply, don't open any attachments, and don't click on any links. And, be vigilant - new scams crop up and when they do, we issue alerts. You can find them on our Website, IRS.gov. On the front page, you'll find a link to information about phishing and email scams, some examples and how you can report them. The most important thing is to be cautious.

Thank you, Faris.

I've been talking with Faris Fink of the IRS. This is Jean Wetzler.

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