IRS: Email, Text Scams Targeting Taxpayers Up 400% This Year

It’s tax season, which means it’s the prime time for scammers to crawl out from underneath their scammy rocks and try to nab taxpayers’ personal info. So far, this year’s electronic tax scams are even more prevalent than before, the Internal Revenue Service says, surging 400%.

The agency has seen a jump in phishing and malware attacks at this point in the 2016 filing season, many of which pass themselves off as official emails from the IRS or others in the tax industry, like a tax software company. Once a user clicks on an email link, they’re sent to sites that mimic the real thing, like IRS.gov, and ask for Social Security numbers and other personal info.

Those sites might also carry malware, which can infect a victim’s computer and allow hackers to waltz right in and access your files, or watch your keystrokes to steal your passwords, PINs, and other info.

These scam attempts can arrive via text messages as well. The IRS says it’s hearing reports of such scams in every part of the country.

“This dramatic jump in these scams comes at the busiest time of tax season,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a consumer advisory issued by the IRS Thursday. “Watch out for fraudsters slipping these official-looking emails into inboxes, trying to confuse people at the very time they work on their taxes. We urge people not to click on these emails.”

Scammers use victims’ personal tax information to help them file false tax returns, thereby stealing the funds from their rightful owner.

The IRS says there’s been an increase in reported phishing and malware schemes this year:

• There were 1,026 incidents reported in January, up from 254 from a year earlier.
• The trend continued in February, nearly doubling the reported number of incidents compared to a year ago. In all, 363 incidents were reported from Feb. 1-16, compared to the 201 incidents reported for the entire month of February 2015.
• This year’s 1,389 incidents have already topped the 2014 yearly total of 1,361, and they are halfway to matching the 2015 total of 2,748.

“While more attention has focused on the continuing IRS phone scams, we are deeply worried this increase in email schemes threatens more taxpayers,” Koskinen said. “We continue to work cooperatively with our partners on this issue, and we have taken steps to strengthen our processing systems and fraud filters to watch for scam artists trying to use stolen information to file bogus tax returns.”