The Internal Revenue Service will never contact you via email. Period. However, a very good scam artist will certainly try, and a good way for them to do so is to pretend to be the IRS in order to gain access to your banking information. In the past month, I have gotten three emails purporting to be from the IRS regarding a Federal tax payment having failed or been rejected. They look totally legit, if you don’t look carefully and not at the “Reply-To” address in the header, and I can see how many people would instantly click on the link in the email in order to rectify this failed payment. After all, no one wants to get in trouble with the IRS! This is what the latest email I received looked like:
Subject: Your Federal Tax Payment ID: 010363182 is failed
Your Federal Tax Payment ID: 010375249 has been rejected.
Return Reason Code R21 – The identification number used in the Company Identification Field is not valid.
Please, check the information and refer to Code R21 to get details about your company payment in transaction contacts section:
Link to click to supposedly pay your due taxes
In other way forward information to your accountant adviser.
EFTPS: The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System
PLEASE NOTE: Your tax payment is due regardless of EFTPS online availability. In case of an emergency, you can always make your tax payment by calling the EFTPS.
I was THIS close to clicking on the link without even thinking about it. But something stopped me – I don’t pay my Federal taxes via EFTPS! I pay all my due taxes, including quarterly estimated taxes, through Official Payments, which lets me use my credit card and earn reward points on the thousands I owe every three months. So that right there stopped me from clicking on the link. And because it felt like something was off, I checked out the email addresses in the header information. Sure enough, the “From” label was a real IRS address, but the “Reply-To” address was someone’s Yahoo account. Nice try, scammer! The email looked really official and legit, and I imagine tons of people went ahead and clicked on the links in their emails. And that’s why I am writing this post, to let you guys know about these emails going around.
I checked out the IRS website about scams and phishing attacks, which you can read right here. Here are few tidbits from the page:
- 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.
- Email scams often trick you into thinking you have a missing refund, are under criminal investigation, refers to a non-existent tax form, or asks for your credit card number.
- The email probably contains links to Web sites or attachments. Do not click on those links or open any attachments. Those Web pages or attachments could contain malicious software or code designed to hijack your computer.
On those pages, they also asked me to forward the email to them at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that they could have it on record and do some investigating, and I received an email back from them stating:
This is an automatic reply from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Online Fraud Detection and Prevention (OFDP) team. We have received your report of possible phishing or fraud. Although we review and investigate each email we receive, due to the number of incident complaints, we cannot guarantee a personal response to your message. Please note that the IRS does not contact individuals by email. Therefore, if you received an email claiming to be from the IRS it is a phishing attempt and should be reported to us.
So please, be aware that these emails are making the rounds and that the IRS will not contact you via email asking for any sort of information. Be sure to tell your friends!