Phishing Season Never Really Ends
And there is no enforceable bag limit, either. Without a Phish and Game Department, we must learn to protect ourselves from these identity poachers.
Once again the IRS is notifying us about new phishing scams targeting taxpayers. There have been several this summer. The first two use scare tactics and the third offers money.
So let’s outline these scams.
The first claims to be from IRS Criminal investigation saying you’re being investigated for filing a false return with the California Tax Franchise Board. Clicking the link downloads a Trojan program that allows someone else to access your computer from anywhere.
The second is from the IRS “Fraud Department” asking you to complete a fraud investigation form. It is suspected to also download a Trojan to your computer.
The latest scam tells you that you can receive $80 for filling out an online Customer Satisfaction Survey. The IRS doesn’t say, but I suspect this is just a blatant attempt to get you to turn over personal data. Or it could also download a program to open your computer to remote access.
Scammers are getting much better at disguising their emails to look like the real thing. However, there are some rather obvious flaws in each of these that should alert you to the fact all is not as it seems.
Let’s start with the universal flaw. As pointed out by rjs on my last blog, how did the IRS get your email address anyway? It is not on your filed return. If you did give your email address when you filed your return, it was for the company you filed with to notify you of your status. It was not passed to the IRS. This automatically reveals the emails to be what they are. Scams.
Now let’s look at the specific flaws.
For the first, if you filed a fraudulent return with the state of California, why would the IRS care? If your return filed with the IRS was correct, the California return is California’s problem. The IRS has enough work to do without investigating you for something that isn’t theirs.
For the second, any time you are suspected of fraudulent activities you will be notified by regular mail, certified mail or in person by men with handcuffs depending on the level of fraud involved. Not email.
The last one is my favorite though. Since when has the IRS parted with a set amount of money like that without a court order or Presidential decree? They just give you your refund due. The IRS does have some concern over our impression of them, but a customer satisfaction survey? We’re not their customers. They know we’re not satisfied we have to give them money. So while I can see them doing a survey on general opinion of the IRS, I doubt they’d call it a customer satisfaction survey. And they’d probably do it by phone or regular mail. Not email.
So as you can see, evaluation of the emails you receive can show you obvious flaws in logic that can protect you even if there are no other telltale signs in the email such as misspelled words and strange phrasing. Just ask yourself a few questions. How did they get your email? Are they asking for information they should already have? Is there an oddity like the IRS investigating a state issue or wanting to know if you are a satisfied customer?
If so, send it to the trash where it belongs.