Frequent or Recent Scams
There are a number of scams that impersonate the IRS. Some of them appear with great frequency, particularly during and right after filing season, and recur annually. Others are new.
This is the most frequent IRS-impersonation scam. In this phishing scam, a bogus e-mail claiming to come from the IRS tells the consumer that he or she is eligible to receive a tax refund for a specified amount. It may use the phrase "last annual calculations of your fiscal activity." To claim the tax refund, the consumer must open an attachment or click on a link contained in the e-mail to access and complete a claim form. The form requires the entry of personal and financial information. Several variations on the refund scam have claimed to come from the Exempt Organizations area of the IRS or the name and signature of a genuine or made-up IRS executive. In reality, taxpayers do not need to complete a special form to obtain their federal tax refund. Refunds are triggered by the tax return they submitted to the IRS.
Lottery winnings or cash consignment:
These advance fee scam e-mails claim to come from the Treasury Department to notify recipients that they'll receive millions of dollars in recovered funds, lottery winnings or cash consignment if they provide certain personal information, including phone numbers, via return e-mail. The e-mail may be just the first step in a multi-step scheme in which the victim is later contacted by telephone or further e-mail and instructed to deposit taxes on the funds or winnings before they can receive any of it. Alternatively, they may be sent a phony check of the funds or winnings and told to deposit it but pay 10% in taxes or fees. Thinking that the check must have cleared the bank and is genuine, some people comply. However, the scammers, not the Treasury Department, will get the taxes or fees. In reality, the Treasury Department does not become involved in notification of inheritances or lottery or other winnings.
Beneficial Owner Form:
This fax-based phishing scam, which generally targets foreign nationals, recurs periodically. It's based on a genuine IRS form, the W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding. The scammer, though, invents his or her own number and name for the form. The scammer modifies the form to request passport numbers, information that is often used for account security purposes (such as mother's maiden name), and similar detailed personal and financial information, and states that the recipient may have to pay additional tax if he or she fails to immediately fax back the completed form. In reality, the real W-8BEN is completed by banks, not individuals.
What to Do:
Taxpayers who receive a suspicious e-mail claiming to come from the IRS should take the following steps:
- Avoid opening any attachments to the e-mail, in case they contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
- Avoid clicking on any links, for the same reason.
- Visit the IRS website, www.irs.gov, to use the "Where's My Refund?" interactive tool to determine if you are really getting a refund, rather than responding to the e-mail message.
- Forward the suspicious e-mail or url address to the IRS mailbox email@example.com, and then delete the e-mail from your inbox.
- Consumers who believe they are or may be victims of identity theft or other scams may visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's website for identity theft, www.onguardonline.gov, for guidance on what to do. The IRS is one of the sponsors of this site.