The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a warning over phishing spam emails purporting to come from the agency which aim to tempt unwary recipients into giving up sensitive personal information.
Over the past few years, IRS warned it has observed criminals increasingly working through the internet, posing as representatives of the agency itself, with the goal of tricking unsuspecting taxpayers into revealing private information such as social security numbers and bank account details that can be used to steal their identities.
According to IRS, phishing is a growing menace which now features in the organization's 2006 "Dirty Dozen" tally of some of the most notorious tax scams. "Also high on the list in 2006 is phishing, a favorite ploy of identity thieves," IRS warned.
"In recent months, some taxpayers have received emails that appear to come from the IRS. A typical email notifies a taxpayer of an outstanding refund and urges the taxpayer to click on a hyperlink and visit an official-looking website. The website then solicits a social security and credit card number."
IRS also pointed out that it has received evidence of more subtle phishing scams which center on cyber criminals using the spam emails to announce to unsuspecting taxpayers they are "under audit" and could make things right by divulging selected private financial information.
"Taxpayers should take note: The IRS does not use e-mail to initiate contact with taxpayers about issues related to their accounts. If a taxpayer has any doubt whether a contact from the IRS is authentic, the taxpayer should call 1-800-829-1040 to confirm it," IRS stated.
IRS commissioner Mark W. Everson added: "I urge taxpayers not to be taken in by hucksters who promise to lower or eliminate taxes. Getting caught up in the Dirty Dozen or similar schemes can lead to big headaches."
IRS added that it pursues and shuts down promoters of phishing and numerous other scams. Anyone pulled into these schemes can also face repayment of taxes plus interest and penalties, the agency warned.