The Internal Revenue Service urges taxpayers to ensure they don't fall victim to the latest versions of an e-mail scam intended to fool people into believing they are under investigation by the agency's Criminal Investigation division.
"This latest phony e-mail appears to be from IRS Criminal Investigation and falsely states that the person is under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Tax Board," said Clay Sanford, an IRS spokesman in Dallas. The e-mail seeks to entice people to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more information about the complaint against them. The IRS warned people that the e-mail link and attachment is a Trojan Horse that can take over the person's computer hard drive and allow someone to have remote access to the computer.
The IRS urged people not to click the link in the e-mail or open the attachment. Similar e-mail variations suggest a customer has filed a complaint against a company and the IRS can act as an arbitrator. The latest versions appear aimed at business taxpayers as well as individual taxpayers.
"The IRS doesn't use e-mail to initiate contact with taxpayers about issues related to their accounts, so don't be tricked by internet crooks who may be taking advantage of computers to find victims," Sanford added. "Some of the newer fraudulent emails look more realistic than ever, especially since these wrongdoers put extra effort into making emails look authentic by using logos and even font styles designed to deceive."
Taxpayers who receive an unsolicited e-mail purporting to be from the IRS should never click on any links in the message, open any attachments or provide any personal or financial information to the sender. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
"Everyone should beware of these scam artists," said Kevin M. Brown, Acting IRS Commissioner. "Always exercise caution when you receive unsolicited e-mails or e-mails from senders you don't know."
Recipients of questionable e-mails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the e-mails. Instead, they should forward the e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IRS also sees other e-mail scams that involve tricking victims into revealing private personal and financial information over the Internet, a practice that is known as "phishing" for information.
The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration work with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and various Internet service providers and international CERT teams to have the phishing sites taken offline as soon as they are reported.
Since the establishment of the mail box last year, the IRS has received more than 17,700 e-mails from taxpayers reporting more than 240 separate phishing incidents. To date, investigations by TIGTA have identified host sites in at least 27 different countries, as well as in the United States.
Other fraudulent e-mail scams try to entice taxpayers to click their way to a fake IRS Web site and ask for bank account numbers. Another widespread e-mail tells taxpayers the IRS is holding a refund (often $63.80) for them and seeks financial account information. Still another email claims the IRS's ‘anti-fraud commission' is investigating their tax returns.