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March 2014 Tip of the Month

Beware of Fake IRS Emails and Phone Calls

It's tax season and Abo and Company is certainly fielding quite a number of legitimate questions from concerned clients about tax scams that use email and phone calls that appear to come from the IRS. These scams often use the IRS name and logo or fake websites that look real.  Welcome to world of "phishing".

Phishing is the scam typically carried out by unsolicited email and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. 

Scammers often send an email or call to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. The crooks then use this information to commit identity theft or steal your money. Some call their victims to demand payment on a pre-paid debit card or by wire transfer. Abo and Company as well as the IRS will tell you that the IRS will not initiate contact with you to ask for personal or financial by phone or email. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

All unsolicited email claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Office of Professional Responsibility or EFTPS, should be reported to phishing@irs.gov.

If you have experienced monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through their Complaint Assistant to make that information available to investigators.

If you get this type of 'phishing' email, the IRS offers this advice:

  • Don't reply to the message.
  • Don't open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.
  • Don't click on any links
  • Don't give out your personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it. You should not forward scanned images of printed emails as that strips the email of valuable information only available in the electronic copy.

If you discover a website on the Internet that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus, you should send the URL of the suspicious site to phishing@irs.gov. You should also add in the subject line of the email, 'Suspicious website'.

If you get an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS:

  • Ask for a call back number and an IRS employee badge number.
  • If you think you may owe taxes, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. IRS employees can help you but if you determine the person calling you is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you, Abo and Company still suggests you call them back on the number they gave you.
  • If you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do, call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 to report the incident.
  • You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission by using their "FTC Complaint Assistant" on FTC.gov. We suggest you add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

If you receive a paper letter via mail from an individual claiming to be the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee:

  • You can contact the IRS to determine if the mail is a legitimate IRS letter.
  • If it is a legitimate IRS letter, reply if needed. If the caller or party that sent the paper letter is not legitimate, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

If you receive a text message or Short Message Service (SMS) message claiming to be from the IRS:

  • Do not reply.
  • Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer or mobile phone.
  • Do not click on any links. If you clicked on links in a suspicious SMS and entered confidential information, visit the IRS'  identity protection page.
  • Forward the text as-is, to the IRS at 202-552-1226.
  • If possible, in a separate text, forward the originating number to the IRS at 202-552-1226
  • After you forward the text, delete the original text.

As an aside and perfectly legitimate, if you feel the need, you can check on the status of your federal or state tax refund by going to Abo and Company's website at www.aboandcompany.com.