Beware! New E-mail Tax Scams

The other day, the Internal Revenue Service today alerted us in California and elsewhere to the latest versions of an e-mail scam intended to fool us into believing we are under investigation by the agency’s Criminal Investigation division.

The latest versions appear aimed at business taxpayers as well as individual taxpayers.

The IRS’s news release states that the e-mail purports to be from IRS Criminal Investigation falsely states that we are under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Tax Board. The e-mail entices us to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more about the complaint against us. The e-mail link and attachment is a Trojan Horse that can take over our computer hard drive and allow someone to have remote access to the computer.

The IRS urged us 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.

Keep in mind that the IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal and financial information. 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.

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.

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 phishing@irs.gov (follow the instructions).

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 have identified host sites in at least 27 different countries, as well as in the United States.

Other widespread e-mail tells taxpayers the IRS is holding a refund (often $63.80) for them and seeks financial account information. Another fraudulent e-mail scams try to entice taxpayers to click their way to a fake IRS Web site and ask for bank account numbers. Still another email claims the IRS’s ‘anti-fraud commission’ is investigating their tax returns.