IRS warns of 400 percent surge in phishing, malware

Have you been getting a lot of “mail” from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently? You're not alone. The IRS warned consumers Thursday that phishing scammers have been really busy this tax season with the agency noting a 400 percent increase in phishing and malware.

The emails sent to taxpayers under the guise of official IRS correspondence request an array of information. “The phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. E-mails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information,” the IRS said in a statement. “Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the communications are being reported in every section of the country.”

Links in the email direct potential victims to pages that appear to be legitimate IRS websites but are instead phony. Once there, taxpayers are asked to provide information or may be infected with malware.

In January alone, the number of incidents surged to 1,026, well over the reported 254 reported in the same month last year. The first half of February saw a significant increase as well over the number of incidents reported in the whole of February 2015.

The IRS recently has come under fire from tax watch groups, lawmakers and consumers for seemingly shoddy security. On Thursday, “Joseph D. Henchman, vice president of legal and state projects, at the Tax Foundation wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, members of Congress and other officials, requesting the “Get My Electronic Filing PIN” webpage be removed “quickly” because it continues to offer the potential for identity theft.

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