While scams and fraudulent emails (phishing) are a threat at any time, tax time creates the perfect opportunity for identity thieves to pose as official government agencies to obtain your personal information.

This year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax agencies have issued a warning related to an increase in sophisticated phishing emails. The emails appear to come from the IRS and demand immediate payment or threaten to seize tax refunds as a result of non-payment.

In fact, the IRS has reported a 60 percent increase in fraudulent emails attempting to steal taxpayer funds, or tax-related information. A significant volume of telephone scams have also been reported, in which a caller claims to be from the IRS and threatens lawsuits or arrest if payment is not made immediately by debit card.

Common themes among reported cases of phishing or fraudulent telephone calls include:

  • Emails originating from the "IRS Online"
  • Stolen logos that may see, to indicate an authentic message
  • Email attachments titled "Tax account Transcript" or similar language
  • Subject lines containing variations of the phrase "Tax Transcript"
  • Intimidating or threatning language, requesting urgent action or payment

Things you can do:

  • Check email addresses carefully. Even official looking emails may contain a subtle misspelling, or additional word that is not consistent with official government correspondence. Remember, if the official IRS website ends in .gov, their email addresses should as well.
  • Never click links, or open email attachments if you do not recognize the sender.
  • Never offer any information related to bank accounts, or social security number to anyone over the phone. If a call is legitimate, any agency will contact you in writing.

When in doubt

Look up official contact information for the institution that is contacting you, and ask them to verify the claims. Remember—financial institutions like banks and credit unions, the police, and US Government agencies will never request any sort of payment over the phone, and will not send any sensitive tax-related information through non-secure channels like email attachments.

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