Technology Advisor Blog

Computer Security - Phishing scams that impersonate the IRS

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 12/9/10 9:08 AM

Many of our clients have expressed concern after receiving intimidating emails they thought were from the IRS.  Phishing scams seem to come in waves, and the most recent wave we're seeing involves fake messages such as "your federal tax payment has been rejected".  If you look closely at the message, the emails are typically from a random address with a name that doesn't even match the email address. Identity theft is the typical goal of these messages as they try to entice you to go to a web site to enter personal and financial information.

The IRS website explains their policy on email and has a lot of information regarding a wide variety of scams such as fake refund information.  "Generally, the IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails to taxpayers. Further, the IRS does not discuss tax account information with taxpayers via e-mail or use e-mail to solicit sensitive financial and personal information from taxpayers. The IRS does not request financial account security information, such as PIN numbers, from taxpayers."

Rest assured that you are not being personally targeted even though it feels like it because the message winds up in your inbox.  Anyone with an email (phone or fax) can randomly become a target.  The message looks intimidating, but its just a fake.  The messages are specifically designed to get through spam filters because the sender addresses are random (spoofed), and the content contains official sounding language that wouldn't normally be flagged.

What should you do if you get an email like this?  Report the sender by forwarding the suspicious e-mail or url address to the IRS mailbox phishing@irs.gov, then delete the e-mail from your inbox.

Tags: computer security, phishing, IRS scam

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