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Every year, thousands of tax payers report suspicious emails, phone calls and other communications claiming to be from the IRS. Frequently, these communications use the IRS name and/or logo to make the communication look authentic. Our IT staff tells us that the "From" address in an email is easily faked. Of course, return addresses, logos and letterheads can be faked in snail mail as well. The idea behind this trickery is to entice the recipients into revealing personal and financial information, like Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card numbers, for the purpose of stealing your identity, your money, or both.
These sorts of scams, where some enticement is used to gain the confidence of the recipients who then freely give out personal and financial information, are called "phishing" scams. The IRS is certainly aware, and here are five things they want you to know about such scams.
1. The IRS doesn’t ask for detailed personal and financial information like PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
2. The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail and won’t send a message about your tax account. If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site:
Do not reply to the message.
Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
Do not click on any links. If you clicked on links in a suspicious e-mail or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit the IRS website and enter the search term 'identity theft' for more information and resources to help.
3. The address of the official IRS website is http://www.irs.gov. Do not be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus, do not provide any personal information on the suspicious site and report it to the IRS.
4. If you receive a phone call, fax or letter in the mail from an individual claiming to be from the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine if the IRS has a legitimate need to contact you. Report any bogus correspondence.
5. You can help shut down these schemes and prevent others from being victimized. Details on how to report specific types of scams and what to do if you’ve been victimized are available at http://www.irs.gov, keyword “phishing.”