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Tax phishing email from 'IRS Commissioner Mr. John Koskinen' promises $22.5 million

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I didn't win the $759 million Powerball lottery, but I just got word that I'm the recipient of the next best thing, $22.5 million from the federal government.

I know this because Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen emailed me the good news.

Here's what the commish's notification said:

from:Mr John Koskinen "www."@clock.ocn.ne.jp
reply-to:Mr John Koskinen <mrjohnkoskinen99@gmail.com>
date:Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 7:42 PM

U.S.A IRS Address:1111 Constitution Ave., NW; Washington, DC 20224

Greetings From The Internal Revenue Service United States of America.

Your total funds worth $22.5 million USD will be delivered to your home
address through ATM Card Delivery Via USPS.

Your ATM Card has been activated and deposited with USPS already; so kindly
update us with:

  1. Your Full Name which you prefer we use when shipping your ATM Card...........................
  2. Your Current mailing (Delivery) Address where your ATM Card should be mailed to............
  3. Your Private Mobile Number for the Priority Express Mail to Contact you
    when they arrive at your door step...........
  4. Your direct telephone Number........................
  5. A copy of your identification card or driver licence...................

Reply this email with the below contact details immediately you receive this
email for immediate shipment of your ATM Card.....

Yours Sincerely,
IRS Commissioner,
Mr. John Koskinen

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen at Senate Finance hearing 10-27-15

I'm impressed that between testifying on Capitol Hill, making other public appearances and running the IRS, Koskinen has time to personally email folks like me when we are due millions from Uncle Sam.

Oh, wait. It's a phishing scam!

It was quite obvious from the email's formatting, misspellings, awkward phrasing (Commissioner Mr.) and the Gmail address (There are 98 other MrJohnKoskinens? Or is he simply a Wayne Gretzky fan?).

And, oh yeah, the promise of $22.5 million to be loaded onto an ATM card. 

Other officials' names used as hooks: It's not the first time Koskinen's name has been invoked in a tax scam. Criminals often use well-known officials' names as hooks in their various phishing scams.

Some of the crooks who are part of the pervasive IRS impersonation telephone scam have identified themselves as IRS Revenue Agent John Koskinen.

There also was the phishing email a few years ago from then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The fake Jake wasn't nearly as generous, only offering me $500,000.

Don't fall for phishing attempts: Like most phishing scams, the one I got from IRS Commissioner Mr. John Koskinen is poorly constructed.

Unfortunately, despite its flaws, this email and so many other similar criminal tax identity theft efforts still convince some people to reply with the requested personal information.

Don't! Just don't.

Most emails purportedly from the IRS are fake.

Yes, the agency recently expanded its digital options to include emails to some taxpayers, but those are in specific situations that allow individuals to sign up for email confirmation of their electronic payments to the U.S. Treasury. They are not unsolicited emails about other tax circumstances.

Act, don't react: So if you, too, get an email from IRS Commissioner Mr. John Koskinen — or any other suspicious contact by email, phone or traditional mail from someone saying they are with the tax agency — don't respond to it.

If you think you really might owe a tax bill or are due a refund, reach out to the IRS directly about it. You can call toll-free at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS also offers a variety of ways to contact the agency via its online services if you prefer.

Then send a copy of the phishing scam to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov, as well as to the IRS' Security Summit partners at StateAlert@taxadmin.org so that state tax agencies also can stay on top of email scam developments.

The only way to put these tax crooks out of business is for all of us to quit responding to their attempts to steal our identities and money.

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