MASON CITY — The Internal Revenue Service is highlighting the importance of keeping your tax information safe this week. IRS spokesman, Christopher Miller says “National Tax Security Awareness Week” is especially important based on the trend this year.
“We’re seeing a large increase in bogus email and phishing scams that seek to steal people’s tax data,” Miller explains. Phising is when someone uses an email address that looks legitimate, but is not and they are trying to get your personal information. He says the reports of the problem are up dramatically this year. “We saw a 60 percent increase in bogus emails and phising scams — and what’s perhaps most disturbing about that — before that in the three previous years we saw a decline. So we know that the crooks are back at the phising game,” Miller says.
Miller says the scams can be very sophisticated. “So if they get an email in their inbox that looks like a trusted source has sent it to them — like a bank or credit card company or even the IRS — be very cautious. Don’t open any of the links, because that’s where people get into trouble,” Miller says. He says once you open the links they ask you for personal information that can use to file a tax return in your name.
He says they will try all avenues to get to you and it may be someone close to you. “Thieves may have even compromised your friend’s email address so it might look like your friend is sending you a message, but they are spoofing that address with a slight change in text. Maybe a letter or two is change. So, be sure that look at your friends who are sending you messages that seem a bit suspicious,” Miller says.
If the email is asking you for things like your Social Security number or bank information — that’s a big clue that it is a phising attempt. “Remember the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email to ask for personal information,” Miller says, “in fact, no reputable agency or business will ask for personal information over the email.” Miller says you can help them try to stop these attacks.
“If you get one of these phising email scams in your inbox, we want to you take the entire thing and copy it and put it into another message and send it to the IRS,” Miller says. “You can send suspicious emails to email@example.com, and we’ll try to track it or potentially shut it down.”
One recent campaign used emais with subjects like “IRS Important Notice,” “IRS Taxpayer Notice” and other variations to demand a payment or they threaten to seize the recipient’s tax refund.