Suspicious e-Mails and Identity Theft
The Internal Revenue Service has issued several recent consumer warnings on the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scamsters trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information in order to steal their identity and assets. When identity theft takes place over the Internet, it is called phishing.
Phishing (as in “fishing for information” and “hooking” victims) is a scam where Internet fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity. Current scams include phony e-mails which claim to come from the IRS and which lure the victims into the scam by telling them that they are due a tax refund.
Phishing and Other Schemes Using the IRS Name
The IRS periodically alerts taxpayers to, and maintains a list of, phishing schemes using the IRS name, logo or Web site clone. If you've received an e-mail, phone call or fax claiming to come from the IRS that seemed a little suspicious, you just may find it on this list.
- IR-2012-29, Tax Scam Warning: Beware of Phony Refund Scheme Abusing Popular College Tax Credit; Senior Citizens, Working Families and Church Members Are Targets
- IR-2012-23, IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2012
- IR-2011-73, IRS Urges Taxpayers to Avoid Becoming Victims of Tax Scams
- IR-2009-71, IRS Alerts Public to New Identity Theft Scams
- IR-2008-11, IRS Warns of New E-Mail and Telephone Scams Using the IRS Name; Advance Payment Scams Starting
- IR-2007-183, IRS Warns of E-Mail Scam Soliciting Donations to California Wildfire Victims
- IR-2007-148, IRS Warns of New E-mail Scam Offering Cash for Participation in “Member Satisfaction Survey”
- IR-2007-109, IRS Warns Taxpayers of New E-mail Scams
- IR-2007-75, IRS Warns of Phony e-Mails Claiming to Come from the IRS
- IR-2006-116, Electronic Federal Tax Payment System Cited in New E-mail Scam
- IR-2006-104, IRS Renews E-mail Alert Following New Scams
- IR-2006-49, IRS Establishes e-Mail Box for Taxpayers to Report Phony e-Mails
- FS-2012-7, Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- FS-2010-9, Online Scams that Impersonate the IRS
- FS-2009-4, The Official Internal Revenue Service Web Site Is IRS.gov
- FS-2008-9, Identity Theft E-mail Scams a Growing Problem
- ID Theft: Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- ID Theft: Are You a Victim of Identity Theft?
- Tax Refund Scams: English | Spanish | ASL
- Phishing — Malware: English | text
Publication 4523, Beware of Phishing Schemes (English/Spanish)
- Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft
- Sample of a suspicious/phishing e-mail
- Is it a phishing Web site?
- How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes
You Can Help Shut Down Phishing Schemes
The good news is that you can help shut down these schemes and prevent others from being victimized. If you receive a suspicious e-mail that claims to come from the IRS, you can relay that e-mail to a new IRS mailbox, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow instructions in the link below for sending the bogus e-mail to ensure that it retains critical elements found in the original e-mail. The IRS can use the information, URLs and links in the suspicious e-mails you send to trace the hosting Web site and alert authorities to help shut down the fraudulent sites. Unfortunately, due to the expected volume, the IRS will not be able to acknowledge receipt or respond to you.
- Instructions for submitting phishing e-mails to IRS
IR-2006-49, IRS Establishes e-Mail Box for Taxpayers to Report Phony e-Mails
Identity theft can be committed through e-mail (phishing) or other means, such as regular mail, fax or telephone, or even by going through someone's trash.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number or other identifying information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Typically, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commit crimes. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years — and their hard-earned money — cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.
- Publication 4524, Security Awareness-Identity Theft Flyer
- Publication 4535, Identity Theft Prevention and Victim Assistance (English/Spanish)
Identity Theft Companion Learning Guide , What Law Enforcement is Doing to Stop the Thieves
- Social Security announces public warning of identity theft e-mail scam
The IRS periodically alerts taxpayers to schemes that fraudulently use the IRS name, logo or Web site clone to to gain access to consumers’ financial information in order to steal their identity and assets. The scams may take place through e-mail, fax or phone. The IRS also maintains a list of phishing and other schemes.
For more information on various schemes, see the following:
- IR-2007-37, Fraudulent Telephone Tax Refunds, Abusive Roth IRAs Top Off 2007 “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams
IR-2005-136, IRS Warns of e-Mail Scam About Tax Refunds
- TIGTA Report on Phishing
To Report Fraud
For other than phishing schemes, you may report the fraudulent misuse of the IRS name, logo, forms or other IRS property by calling the TIGTA toll-free hotline at 1-800-366-4484 or visiting the TIGTA Web site.
Other Federal Resources
For more information on understanding and preventing identity theft and suspicious e-mails (phishing), or dealing with their aftermath, check out the following federal resources:
- Department of the Treasury's identity theft resource page
- Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) consumer Web site
- FTC's OnGuardOnLine Web site
- Social Security Administration (SSA)