IRS Tax News

IRS urges caution with email, social media and phones as part of "Dirty Dozen" series

IR-2021-137, June 29, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today continues its "Dirty Dozen" scam series with a warning to taxpayers to watch out for unexpected schemes in the form of emails, text or social media messages and phone calls.

Unscrupulous individuals seek to obtain personal information for the purpose of tax-related identity theft. Whether through a telephone call, text message or email, the con artist tries to convince the recipient that they need to provide Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information or passwords. The scam may also include sending links that once clicked on can download malicious software that collects, or "mines" personal data.

Often, criminals pose as someone the recipient knows or frequently interacts with, whether a social or family relationship or a business contact. They gather much of this information from social media. A person's contacts or 'friends' are used to bait the recipient into thinking they're dealing with someone they know.

More information on the IRS's "Dirty Dozen" list can be found on a special section of IRS.gov.

Tax-related phishing scams persist

The IRS warns taxpayers, businesses and tax professionals to be alert for a continuing surge of fake emails, text messages, websites and social media attempts to steal personal information. These attacks tend to increase during tax season and remain a major cause of identity theft throughout the year.

Phishing scams target individuals with communications appearing to come from legitimate sources to collect victims' personal and financial data and potentially infect their devices by convincing the target to download malicious programs. Cybercriminals usually send these phishing communications by email but may also use text messages or social media posts or messaging.

These phishing schemes can be tricky and cleverly disguised to look like they're from the IRS or from others in the tax community. Taxpayers are reminded to continually watch out for emails and other scams posing as the IRS, like those promising a big refund, missing stimulus payment or even issuing a threat. People should not open attachments or click on links in those emails or text messages.

Phishing scams targeting tax professionals

As part of the Security Summit effort, the IRS warns tax professionals about phishing scams involving verification of Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFIN) and Centralized Authorization File (CAF) numbers. The agency has seen an increase in these kinds of scams, along with offers to buy and sell EFINs and CAFs.

Tax professionals have reported receiving scam e-mails from the fictitious "IRS Tax E-Filing" and the IRS reminds tax professionals who receive those e-mails to not open any attachments or click any links. Rather, they should report the scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The IRS reminds tax professionals to protect themselves against the unauthorized use of an EFIN. Tax professionals must not transfer their EFIN or ETIN by sale, merger, loan, gift or otherwise to another entity.

Phishing – new client scams target tax pros

The "New Client" scam continues to be a prevalent form of phishing for tax pros. Here's an example in the form of an email: "I just moved here from Michigan. I have an urgent tax issue and I was hoping you could help," the email begins. "I hope you are taking on new clients."

The email says one attachment is an IRS notice and the other attachment is the prospective client's prior-year tax return. This scam has many variations so tax professionals should be wary and avoid opening attachments or clicking links when they don't know the e-mail sender.

Knowing what to watch for can help. Below is an actual example of another recent new client scam e-mail:

Sample of an phishing scam email regarding tax preparation that was sent to an accountant to request that they take on the sender as a client because their tax preparer is retiring.
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