This latest scheme, which triggered a warning from the Internal Revenue Service late last week, contains a “payment link” in the email itself and an attachment for a fake CP2000 notice for tax year 2015. CP2000 notices are intended to inform tax filers that the IRS has received information from a third party that doesn’t match the income numbers reported on the payers’ tax return.
Here’s a copy of this authentic-looking ruse. Unlike some previous IRS email scams, it is absent of typos and grammatical errors and convincingly mimics the style and wording of legitimate agency correspondence.
But it offers some clues to help potential victims avoid this scam and other (inevitable) IRS-impostor and Uncle Sham schemes:
- The IRS and other federal agencies, including Medicare and the Social Security Administration, don’t initiate contact with citizens through email, telephone, text message or social media — only through U.S. mail. Swindlers posing as IRS agents have already netted at least $47 million over three years in what continues to be a top scam: live and automated phone calls that threaten arrest, lawsuits and other penalties unless a supposed tax debt is immediately paid. The latest targets in this widespread ploy are those with college loans, who are told they owe a nonexistent federal student tax.
- In this scheme, con artists request that checks and money orders be paid to “I.R.S.” But payment of federal tax bills should be made to the United States Treasury. With checks to “IRS,” fraudsters can more easily tweak those letters in their favor to cash the check, such as writing a phony name like “I.R. Smith.”
- In other swindles, including the widespread calling scam, government impostors demand payment by prepaid debit card or iTunes and other gift cards. The real agency doesn’t require taxpayers to use a specific payment method, and it “reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.”
- The fake email with the CP2000 notice appears to be issued from an IRS processing center in Austin, Texas, with zip code 78761. Although the agency does have a processing center in that city, its zip code is 73301. The fake email also lists a toll-free 800 number that is associated with sporadic reports of calling scams. Take-home message: Whenever you get notice from a government agency, take a few minutes to search the internet for the cited address and phone number to ensure they’re legit. The actual IRS assistance phone numbers are 800-829-1040 for individual taxpayers and 800-829-4933 for businesses; agency field offices use local area codes.
For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and keep tabs of scams and law enforcement alerts in your area at our Scam-Tracking Map.
Also of Interest
- Election protection: 5 voter scams to avoid
- Video: Brain benefits of cinnamon
- Get help: Find out if you’re eligible for public benefits with Benefits QuickLINK
- Join AARP: savings, resources and news for your well-being
See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.