Volume 3 Number 13
March 27, 2006

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IRS ESTABLISHES EMAIL BOX FOR TAXPAYERS TO REPORT PHONY EMAILS                           

The Internal Revenue Service announced today that it has established an electronic mailbox for taxpayers to send information about suspicious e-mails they receive which claim to come from the IRS. Taxpayers should send the information to: phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS’s new mail box allows taxpayers to send copies of possibly fraudulent e-mails involving misuse of the IRS name and logo to the IRS for investigation. Instructions on how to properly submit one of these communications to the IRS may be found on the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov. Enter the term phishing in the search box in the upper right hand corner. Then open the article titled “How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails” and scroll through it until you find the instructions. Following these instructions helps ensure that the bogus e-mails relayed by taxpayers retain critical elements found in the original e-mail. The IRS can use the information, URLs and links in the bogus e-mails to trace the hosting Web sites and alert authorities to help shut down these fraudulent sites.

However, due to the volume the new mailbox is expected to receive, the IRS will not be able to acknowledge receipt or reply to taxpayers who submit their bogus e-mails. The phishing@irs.gov mailbox is only for suspicious e-mails and not for general taxpayer contact or inquiries.

The IRS reminded taxpayers to be on the lookout for scam e-mails aimed at tricking the recipients into disclosing personal and financial information that could be used to steal the recipients’ identity and financial assets.

“The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails asking for personal information,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “Don’t be taken in by these criminals.”

The IRS has seen a recent increase in these scams, many of which originate outside the United States. To date, investigations by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have identified sites hosting more than two dozen IRS-related phishing scams. These scam Web sites have been located in at least 20 different countries, including Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, England, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Singapore and Slovakia, as well as the United States.

The current scams claim to come from the IRS, tell recipients that they are due a federal tax refund, and direct them to a Web site that appears to be a genuine IRS site. The bogus sites contain forms or interactive Web pages similar to IRS forms or Web pages but which have been modified to request detailed personal and financial information from the e-mail recipients. In addition, e-mail addresses ending with “.edu” — involving users in the education community — currently seem to be heavily targeted.  

The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal 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.

Tricking consumers into disclosing their personal and financial information, such as secret access data or credit card or bank account numbers, is identity theft. Such schemes perpetrated through the Internet are called “phishing” for information.

The information fraudulently obtained is then used to steal the taxpayer’s identity and financial assets. Typically, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to empty the victim’s 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.

When the IRS learns of new schemes involving use of the IRS name or logo, it issues consumer alerts warning taxpayers about the schemes.

For more information on phishing (suspicious e-mails) and identity theft, visit the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov.

For information on preventing or handling the aftermath of identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web sites at www.consumer.gov/idtheft and www.OnGuardOnline.gov (and click on Topics).

For schemes other than phishing, please report the fraudulent misuse of the IRS name, logo, forms or other IRS property by calling the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-366-4484.