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IRS Presents:Five Facts You Need to Know about Suspicious E-mails

There are many e-mail scams circulating that fraudulently use the Internal Revenue Service name or logo as a lure. The goal of the scam – known as phishing – is to trick you into revealing personal and financial information. The scammers can then use your personal information – such as your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers – to commit identity theft and steal your money.

Here are five things the IRS wants you to know about phishing scams.

1.  The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails about a person’s tax account or ask for detailed personal and financial information via e-mail.

2. The IRS never asks taxpayers for their PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

3. If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site,

  • Do not reply to the message.
  • Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  • Do not click on any links. If you clicked on links in a suspicious e-mail or phishing Web site and entered confidential information, visit IRS.gov and enter the search term ‘identity theft’ for more information and resources to help.

4. You can help shut down these schemes and prevent others from being victimized. If you receive a suspicious e-mail that claims to come from the IRS, you can forward that e-mail to a special IRS mailbox, phishing@irs.gov. You can forward the message as received or provide the Internet header of the e-mail. The Internet header has additional information to help us locate the sender.

5. Remember, the official IRS Web site is http://www.irs.gov/. Do not be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but end in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.
Link:   Suspicious e-Mails and Identity Theft

Identity Theft Scams

Video: Watch Out for Tax Scams: English Spanish ASL
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service reminds consumers to avoid identity theft scams that use the IRS name, logo or Web site in an attempt to convince taxpayers that the scam is a genuine communication from the IRS. Scammers may use other federal agency names, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
In an identity theft scam, a fraudster, often posing as a trusted government, financial or business institution or official, tries to trick a victim into revealing personal and financial information, such as credit card numbers and passwords, bank account numbers and passwords, Social Security numbers and more. Generally, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to steal his or her financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name and even file fraudulent tax returns.
The scams may take place through e-mail, fax or phone. When they take place via e-mail, they are called “phishing” scams.

The IRS does not discuss tax account matters with taxpayers by e-mail.
The IRS urges consumers to avoid falling for the following recent schemes:

Making Work Pay Refund
This phishing e-mail, which claims to come from the IRS, references the president and the Making Work Pay provision of the 2009 economic recovery law. It says that there is a refundable credit available to workers, consumers and retirees that can be paid into the recipient’s bank account if the recipient registers their account information with the IRS. The e-mail contains links to register the account and to claim the tax refund.

In reality, most taxpayers receive their Making Work Pay tax credit, which was designed for wage earners, in their paychecks as a result of decreased tax withholding, not as a lump sum distribution from a federal fund. Additionally, consumers and retirees who are not wage earners are not eligible for this tax credit.

Inherited Funds / Lottery Winnings / Cash Consignment
In this phishing scheme, recipients receive an e-mail claiming to come from the U.S. Department of the Treasury notifying them that they will receive millions of dollars in recovered funds or lottery winnings or cash consignment if they provide certain personal information, including phone numbers, via return e-mail. The e-mail may be just the first step in a multi-step scheme, in which the victim is later contacted by telephone or further e-mail and instructed to deposit taxes on the funds or winnings before they can receive any of it. Alternatively, they may be sent a phony check of the funds or winnings and told to deposit it but pay 10 percent in taxes or fees. Thinking that the check must have cleared the bank and is genuine, some people comply. However, the scammers, not the Treasury Department, will get the taxes or fees.

Form W-8BEN
In this scam, fraudsters modify a genuine IRS form, the W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, to request detailed personal and financial information. This could include nationality, passport number, bank account and PIN numbers, spouse’s name and mother’s maiden name, or other personal or financial information or security measures for financial accounts. The scammers may use the genuine form number and name or may make up a new form number, such as W-4100B2.

They either e-mail or fax the form or letter. If only a letter, the letter itself contains the request for the personal and financial information. The letter, which claims to come from the IRS, states that the recipient will face additional taxes unless he or she quickly faxes the required information to the number provided by the scammer.

In reality, taxpayers file the genuine Form W-8BEN with their financial institutions, not with the IRS. Additionally, the genuine W-8BEN does not request the taxpayer’s passport number, bank account number, security or similar information.

Refund Scam
The bogus e-mail, which claims to come from the IRS, tells the recipient that he or she is eligible to receive a tax refund for a given amount. It instructs the recipient to click on a link contained in the e-mail to access and complete a form for the tax refund. The form requires the entry of personal and financial information. The refund scam is the most common one seen by the IRS. Several recent variations on this scam have claimed to come from the Exempt Organizations area of the IRS. Some others have included the name and purported signature of a genuine or a made-up IRS executive.

Taxpayers do not have to complete a special form to obtain a refund. Taxpayer refunds are based on the tax return they submit to the IRS.

How to Spot a Scam
Many e-mail scams are fairly sophisticated and hard to detect. However, there are signs to watch for, such as an e-mail that:
Requests detailed or an unusual amount of personal and/or financial information, such as name, SSN, bank or credit card account numbers or security-related information, such as mother’s maiden name, either in the e-mail itself or on another site to which a link in the e-mail sends the recipient.

Dangles bait to get the recipient to respond to the e-mail, such as mentioning a tax refund or offering to pay the recipient to participate in an IRS survey.
Threatens a consequence for not responding to the e-mail, such as additional taxes or blocking access to the recipient’s funds.
Gets the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agency names wrong.
Uses incorrect grammar or odd phrasing (many of the e-mail scams originate overseas and are written by non-native English speakers).
Uses a really long address in any link contained in the e-mail message or one that does not start with the actual IRS Web site address (http://www.irs.gov/).
To see the actual link address, or url, move the mouse over the link included in the text of the e-mail.
What to Do
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited e-mail or ask for personal identifying or financial information via e-mail. If you receive a suspicious e-mail claiming to come from the IRS, take the following steps:
Do not open any attachments to the e-mail, in case they contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
Do not click on any links, for the same reason. Also, be aware that the links often connect to a phony IRS Web site that appears authentic and then prompts the victim for personal identifiers, bank or credit card account numbers or PINs. The phony Web sites appear legitimate because the appearance and much of the content are directly copied from an actual page on the IRS Web site and then modified by the scammers for their own purposes.
Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine whether the IRS is trying to contact you.
Forward the suspicious e-mail or url address to the IRS mailbox phishing@irs.gov, then delete the e-mail from your inbox.
Genuine IRS Web site
The only genuine IRS Web site is IRS.gov. All IRS.gov Web page addresses begin with http://www.irs.gov/. Anyone wishing to access the IRS Web site should initiate contact by typing the IRS.gov address into their Internet address window, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail.

2009 "Dirty Dozen" Tax Scams

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued its 2009 “dirty dozen” list of tax scams, including schemes involving phishing, hiding income offshore and false claims for refunds.“Taxpayers should be wary of scams to avoid paying taxes that seem too good to be true, especially during these challenging economic times,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “There is no secret trick that can eliminate a person’s tax obligations. People should be wary of anyone peddling any of these scams.”Tax schemes are illegal and can lead to problems for both scam artists and taxpayers who risk significant penalties, interest and possible criminal prosecution.The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid these common schemes:
Phishing
Phishing is a tactic used by Internet-based scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information. The criminals use the information to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name.
Phishing scams often take the form of an e-mail that appears to come from a legitimate source, including the IRS. The IRS never initiates unsolicited e-mail contact with taxpayers about their tax issues.
Taxpayers who receive unsolicited e-mails that claim to be from the IRS can forward the message to phishing@irs.gov. Further instructions are available at IRS.gov. To date, taxpayers have forwarded scam e-mails reflecting thousands of confirmed IRS phishing sites.
If you believe you have been the target of an identity thief, information is available at IRS.gov.
Hiding Income Offshore
The IRS aggressively pursues taxpayers and promoters involved in abusive offshore transactions. Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or through other entities.
Recently, the IRS provided guidance to auditors on how to deal with those hiding income offshore in undisclosed accounts. The IRS draws a clear line between taxpayers with offshore accounts who voluntarily come forward and those who fail to come forward.
Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or life insurance plans.
The IRS has also identified abusive offshore schemes including those that involve use of electronic funds transfer and payment systems, offshore business merchant accounts and private banking relationships.
Filing False or Misleading Forms
The IRS is seeing scam artists file false or misleading returns to claim refunds that they are not entitled to. Frivolous information returns, such as Form 1099-Original Issue Discount (OID), claiming false withholding credits are used to legitimize erroneous refund claims.
The new scam has evolved from an earlier phony argument that a “strawman” bank account has been created for each citizen. Under this scheme, taxpayers fabricate an information return, arguing they used their “strawman” account to pay for goods and services and falsely claim the corresponding amount as withholding as a way to seek a tax refund.
Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions
The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. Abuse includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or income from donated property.
The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes involving the donation of non-cash assets, including easements on property, closely-held corporate stock and real property. Often, the donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can purchase the items back at a later date at a price the donor sets. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 imposed increased penalties for inaccurate appraisals and new definitions of qualified appraisals and qualified appraisers for taxpayers claiming charitable contributions.
Return Preparer Fraud
Dishonest return preparers can cause many headaches for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers derive financial gain by skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds and charging inflated fees for return preparation services. They attract new clients by promising large refunds. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No matter who prepares the return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for its accuracy.
Since 2002, the courts have issued injunctions ordering dozens of individuals to cease preparing returns, and the Department of Justice has filed complaints against dozens of others, which are pending in court.Frivolous ArgumentsPromoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and unfounded claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should stay away from. Taxpayers who file a tax return or make a submission based on one of the positions on the list are subject to a $5,000 penalty. More information is available on IRS.gov.
False Claims for Refund and Requests for Abatement
This scam involves a request for abatement of previously assessed tax using Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. Many individuals who try this have not previously filed tax returns. The tax they are trying to have abated has been assessed by the IRS through the Substitute for Return Program. The filer uses Form 843 to list reasons for the request. Often, one of the reasons given is “Failed to properly compute and/or calculate Section 83-Property Transferred in Connection with Performance of Service.”
Abusive Retirement Plans
The IRS continues to uncover abuses in retirement plan arrangements, including Roth Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). The IRS is looking for transactions that taxpayers are using to avoid the limitations on contributions to IRAs as well as transactions that are not properly reported as early distributions.
Taxpayers should be wary of advisers who encourage them to shift appreciated assets into IRAs or companies owned by their IRAs at less than fair market value to circumvent annual contribution limits. Other variations have included the use of limited liability companies to engage in activity which is considered prohibited.
Disguised Corporate Ownership
Some taxpayers form corporations and other entities in certain states for the primary purpose of disguising the ownership of a business or financial activity. Such entities can be used to facilitate underreporting of income, fictitious deductions, non-filing of tax returns, participating in listed transactions, money laundering, financial crimes, and even terrorist financing.
The IRS is working with state authorities to identify these entities and to bring the owners of these entities into compliance.
Zero Wages
Filing a phony wage- or income-related information return to replace a legitimate information return has been used as an illegal method to lower the amount of taxes owed. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer also may submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS.
Sometimes fraudsters even include an explanation on their Form 4852 that cites statutory language on the definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation.
Taxpayers should resist any temptation to participate in any of the variations of this scheme.
Misuse of Trusts
For years, unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. While there are many legitimate, valid uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some promoted transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the promised tax benefits and are being used primarily as a means to avoid income tax liability and hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.
The IRS has recently seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to divert income and deduct personal expenses. As with other arrangements, taxpayers should seek the advice of a trusted professional before entering into a trust arrangement.
Fuel Tax Credit Scams
The IRS is receiving claims for the fuel tax credit that are unreasonable. Some taxpayers, such as farmers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes, may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But some individuals are claiming the tax credit for nontaxable uses of fuel when their occupation or income level makes the claim unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim, potentially subjecting those who improperly claim the credit to a $5,000 penalty.
How to Report Suspected Tax Fraud
ActivitySuspected tax fraud can be reported to the IRS using Form 3949-A, Information Referral. Form 3949-A is available for download from the IRS Web site at IRS.gov.
The completed form or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888.
The mailing should include specific information about who is being reported, the activity being reported, how the activity became known, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful in an investigation. The person filing the report is not required to self-identify, although it is helpful to do so. The identity of the person filing the report can be kept confidential.Whistleblowers also may provide allegations of fraud to the IRS and may be eligible for a reward by filing Form 211, Application for Award for Original Information, and following the procedures outlined in Notice 2008-4, Claims Submitted to the IRS Whistleblower Office under Section 7623.

Be Aware of Suspicious E-Mails

Be aware of e-mail scams that fraudulently use the IRS name or Logo as a lure. The goal of the scam is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers, which the scammers can use to commit identity theft and steal your money.
The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails about a person’s tax account or ask for detailed personal and financial information. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site,
Do not reply.
Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.

Do not click on any links. If you clicked on links in a suspicious e-mail or phishing Web site and entered confidential information, visit our Identity Theft page on IRS.gov.
You can help shut down these schemes and prevent others from beingvictimized. If you receive a suspicious e-mail that claims to come from the IRS, you can forward that e-mail to a special IRS mailbox, phishing@irs.gov The e-mail must be forwarded using special instructions at IRS.gov, or it loses the encoding needed to track it to its source. The IRS can use the information, URLs and links in the suspicious e-mails you forward to trace the hosting Web site and alert authorities to help shut down the fraudulent sites. After you forward the e-mail to us, delete the message.

Remember that all of the web page addresses for the official IRS website, IRS.gov, begin with http://www.irs.gov/. Don’ t be confused or misled by internet sites that end in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov. The address of the official IRS governmental Web site is http://www.irs.gov/.
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