Tax-filing season doesn’t start until Jan. 29, but scammers already are out in force attempting to defraud both tax-preparation professionals and tax filers, the Internal Revenue Service says in a new warning.
Posing as either potential clients or IRS employees, fraudsters are emailing accountants and tax-preparation professionals seeking to trick them into disclosing sensitive information in order to gain access to their real clients’ names, addresses and Social Security numbers. The scammers then try to use the stolen information to impersonate taxpayers and file fraudulent tax returns for refunds.
The IRS says two variations they have identified in the email scheme contain the following language:
- "Happy new year to you and yours. I want you to help us file our tax return this year as our previous CPA/account passed away in October. How much will this cost us?...hope to hear from you soon."
- "Please kindly look into this issue, A friend of mine introduced you to me, regarding the job you did for him on his 2017 tax(es). I tried to reach you by phone earlier today but it was not connecting, attached is my information needed for my tax to be filed if you need any more details please feel free to contact me as soon as possible and also send me your direct (number).”
If a tax professional responds to such an email, the scammer sends a second email that contains either a link to a website or an attachment that contains such a link. If the recipient clicks on the link, he or she is led to a site that runs a phishing scheme, asking the potential victim to enter credentials or other personal information that the criminals can then exploit. In some cases, if the link or attachment is clicked, it downloads malicious software onto the tax professional's computer, giving fraudsters access to secure accounts or data, the IRS says.
The IRS recommends that tax professionals who receive emails from fraudsters posing as IRS representatives or tax-software providers report them at the IRS website IRS.gov. Unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS or new clients that appear to be phishing emails should be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then delete the email.
The IRS also is again warning taxpayers that they should not be duped by scammers who call or email about issues related to their taxes, demanding immediate payment or requesting personal information.
The IRS says it contacts taxpayers by mailed letters — not email, texts or social media. The IRS rarely, if ever, contacts taxpayers by phone, and will never call you asking for your debit or credit card information. If you doubt the authenticity of an IRS phone call, contact the IRS at 800-829-1040.