FS-2009-4, January 2009
WASHINGTON — Millions of taxpayers this filing season will go online to retrieve tax forms, publications and other information from the Internal Revenue Service. Unfortunately, some of them will end up at Web sites that have no affiliation with the IRS.
The official Web site for the Internal Revenue Service is IRS.gov, and all IRS.gov Web page addresses begin with http://www.irs.gov
There are many phony Internet sites that impersonate federal or state tax agency sites. Scammers operate these sites as a means of getting visitors to reveal personal and financial information that can be used to steal the visitors’ identity and access their bank accounts, credit cards and more.
In addition to Web sites established by scammers, there are commercial Internet sites that often resemble the authentic IRS site or contain some form of the IRS name in the address but end with a .com, .net, .org or other designation instead of .gov. These sites have no connection to the IRS.
Bogus e-Mail, Fraudulent Web Sites Are Often Identity Theft Tools
It is important to be vigilant when conducting any transactions online. Victims of identity theft can spend years — and a lot of their own money — cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their names and credit records. Victims may lose job opportunities, may be refused loans for education, housing or cars, or even face arrest for crimes they did not commit.
Identity theft can happen in a number of ways.
It can start when you conduct an Internet search for the IRS or tax-related information that results in links to Web sites run by scam artists.
Or you may receive e-mail that claims to come from the IRS. Such messages often direct recipients to phony Web sites that ask for personal and financial information that can be used to steal the recipient’s identity. Bogus e-mail such as this has been received by individuals, businesses and even tax-exempt organizations.
As a general rule, the IRS will not send you unsolicited e-mail and or use e-mail to discuss tax account information with you or request personal or financial information from you. Additionally, the IRS will never ask you for PIN numbers or security passwords for your credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
If you receive this type of e-mail, never open an attachment to the e-mail or click on a link within the e-mail. When clicked, attachments or links in bogus e-mails may send you to phony Web sites or download malicious computer code onto your computer. Malicious code may look for passwords and other information and send them to the scammer, allow the scammer to remotely control your computer, or more.
The safest way to access a federal or state tax agency Web site is to close the e-mail and type the address of the site directly in the Internet browser address box.
Phony Web sites often look legitimate because much of their content is directly copied from an actual page on the IRS Web site, which is then modified by the fraudsters for their own purposes. The bogus site might look like the IRS.gov home page or may appear to be one of the pages within IRS.gov Web site. In fact, a common phishing scam that has often circulated after the April 15 filing deadline, when many taxpayers are still awaiting their tax refunds, uses refunds as its lure. This scam usually sends those who click on the link contained in the e-mail to a phony IRS “Where’s My Refund?” interactive tool that is modified to elicit personal and financial information that the scammers can steal. The real Where's My Refund? tool is located on IRS.gov; it asks for only three items of personal information.
The contents of bogus e-mails vary, but often claim the recipient is entitled to a tax refund, will be paid for participating in an online survey or is under investigation or audit. Some e-mails have solicited for charitable donations. More information on the scam e-mails is available in articles and news releases on this Web site.
If you have received a questionable e-mail claiming to come from the IRS, please forward it to a mailbox the IRS has established to receive such e-mails, email@example.com. Read How to Report and Identify Phishing, E-mail Scams and Bogus IRS Web Sites for instructions. Following the instructions will help the IRS track suspicious e-mail to its origins and shut down potential scams.
Find State Tax Agency Web Sites
You may also find links on IRS.gov to official state tax agency Web sites. These may be found by entering the words “state links” in the search box in the upper right-hand corner of any page. Links to all of the states and the District of Columbia are available on the page that opens . You may also visit the Web site of the Federation of Tax Administrators for your state tax needs. The FTA is an association of the tax agencies in the 50 states, District of Columbia, New York City and Puerto Rico.