At Skoda Minotti, we regularly share – almost too regularly, unfortunately – timely information about scams of which we become aware to help clients and friends avoid falling victim to these kinds of frauds. Usually, such solicitations are sent by a fraudster in an attempt to secure your personal identifying information, and then use that information in an array of criminal activities, including credit card fraud and income tax refund fraud.
The latest scam – which one of our clients received today via email (click here to view the email) – features the subject header “2015 Tax Reduction File”. An Internal Revenue Service (IRS) logo appears in the upper left-hand corner of the email body, and to an untrained eye, it looks legitimate at first glance. Together with the subject header, it’s intended to fool the recipient into filling out the form and submitting it. The implication of this offer is certainly appealing; after all, who doesn’t want their income taxes reduced?
This request is fraudulent. Do not complete it, and certainly do not hit “submit.”
Why is this fraudulent?
- Bad email address of origin: The email address from which this was sent is firstname.lastname@example.org. The actual IRS website is www.irs.gov.
- Poor writing: Bad grammar and random capitalized letters appear throughout the email. Just a quick “sniff test” of these elements tells me it’s of questionable origin.
- A big ask for key personal information: The form asks you to provide the pieces of personal information that are necessary to perpetrate the crime of identity theft and more specifically, the crime of income tax refund fraud. This phony solicitation requests absolutely everything that a criminal would need in order to create a fake W-2, and then immediately file a fraudulent income tax return. This includes: your and your spouse’s social security numbers; dates of birth; address; email address(es); IRS PIN(s); employer(s) name(s) and address(es); employee identification number(s), filing status, and salary and/or salaries.An identity thief can prepare a phony W-2 and electronically file a fraudulent income tax return using your information in less than 30 minutes. If you completed this form, then you just gave them everything they need to do it.
- The fact that this was even sent via email: How does the IRS know your email address? Have you ever sent the IRS an email? Have you ever thought of that for a minute? We know you haven’t, and the reason is that tax agencies like the IRS don’t know your email address! When you file income tax returns, you are not asked to provide your email address on any of them.
- Ambiguous yet scary threat: The IRS will not threaten you with regard to taking actions against “your next filing,” as this bogus email states.
Be advised that the IRS will never communicate with you via email or text – nor do IRS officials call you at home, unless you have called them. I have been practicing in public accounting for nearly 30 years, and the IRS doesn’t even email CPAs like me. In short, the IRS will not communicate with you via email.
There’s a good chance that hitting the submit button on this fraudulent email would also infect your computer with a virus, or enable some other stealth software to latch onto your operating system.
If you ever receive an email from any income tax agency, and you are in doubt about its validity, do not respond to it. It’s most likely a scam. Instead, contact Frank Suponcic, CPA, CFE, CFF, or your Skoda Minotti advisor at 888-201-4484.