One month into tax season, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers to watch out for email scams.
The federal agency reported Thursday that phishing and malicious software incidents have increased by about 400 percent so far this tax season.
- In January, 1,026 phishing and malware incidents were reported, up from 254 incidents the prior January.
- In the first half of February alone, 363 incidents were reported, compared with 201 incidents during the entire month of February 2015.
The term “phishing” refers to emails that are intended to disguise the sender’s identity in order to trick the recipient into providing personal information or visiting a malicious website.
In this case, the IRS reports that scammers have sent emails designed to trick taxpayers into believing the messages are official communications from the IRS or other tax industry entities such as tax software companies.
The scammers have requested a variety of personal information, including Social Security numbers, which the IRS says could be used to file fraudulent tax returns.
The emails also contain links that purport to direct taxpayers to official websites like IRS.gov. However, these links actually direct taxpayers to malicious websites that mirror official sites. The malicious websites might request personal information or infect taxpayers’ computers with malicious software — “malware” — that allows scammers to access taxpayers’ computer files or track their keystrokes.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warns:
“Watch out for fraudsters slipping these official-looking emails into inboxes, trying to confuse people at the very time they work on their taxes. We urge people not to click on these emails. …
While more attention has focused on the continuing IRS phone scams, we are deeply worried this increase in email schemes threatens more taxpayers.”
Taxpayers who receive unsolicited emails that appear to be from the IRS or another tax industry entity should report them by forwarding the emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2016 tax season opened on Jan. 19 and, thanks to a couple of holidays, taxes are due on April 18.
To learn more about preparing for tax season — including how to slash your tax bill — be sure to check out Money Talks News’ new one-hour course taught by Stacy Johnson: “Mastering Taxes: Slash Your Taxes and Have Fun Doing It!” (Readers can save 28 percent via that link.)
Have you received any email tax scams this season? Let us know below or on Facebook.