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New tax phishing scam targets students, .edu emails

Student some serious studying_tim-gouw-68319-unsplash
Ah, college days. Studying, working between and after classes and now trying to avoid becoming a tax scam victim. (Photo by Tim Gouw via Unsplash)

Many college students shoehorn jobs into their study schedules to help pay for their continuing educations.

In addition to pocketing that cash throughout the year, many of these young workers also look forward at filing time to tax refunds from their jobs.

So do crooks.

The Internal Revenue Service today warned of an ongoing phishing scam in which the perpetrators are targeting education institutions, including students and staff with email addresses ending in the .edu suffix.

These con artists are casting a wide phishing net, says the IRS. They're focusing on university and college students at public and private, profit and non-profit educational institutions.

It's NOT the IRS: This latest scheme is yet another variation of the ever-popular IRS impersonation ploy.

The suspect emails display the IRS logo and use various subject lines such as "Tax Refund Payment" or "Recalculation of your tax refund payment."

It asks people to click a link and submit a form to claim their refund.


Further criminal requests: The phony IRS website asks intended tax identity theft victims to supply a wide range of personal and financial information.

Since I know that even if you do get the phishing email, you're not going to click over to it, here's what the IRS says it wants from targeted taxpayers:

  • Social Security number
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Prior Year Annual Gross Income (AGI)
  • Driver's License Number
  • Current Address
  • City
  • State/U.S. Territory
  • ZIP Code/Postal Code
  • Electronic Filing PIN

Again, don't follow the fake IRS email link to this bogus tax agency website. Instead, report it to the IRS.

Alert the real tax guys: The IRS asks that you also send in your scam report a copy of the phishing email. Simply save the scam email using "save as" and then send that attachment to phishing@irs.gov.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and IRS Criminal Investigation also are working to stop this latest tax ID and refund theft scheme.

Get a pre-emptive tax ID PIN: If you think you may have provided identity thieves with personal or tax information, you're best next step is obtaining an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number, or IP PIN.

This voluntary opt-in program now is available to all taxpayers across the United States.

An IP PIN is a six-digit number that lets the IRS verify that it is indeed you who has filed your tax return. Once you have the six-digit code, the agency won't accept an electronically filed return in your name without it. If a paper return shows up without the IP PIN, it will get added IRS scrutiny.

A tax ID victims' next steps: Prevention is always best, but sometimes crooks still beat filers to their refunds.

Unfortunately, taxpayers don't usually discover they're victims until they filet their legitimate tax return and the IRS rejects it because the agency already has received a Form 1040 with their Social Security number.

In this case, the real taxpayers should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, an excerpt of which is shown below and which is the latest addition to the ol' blog's Tax Forms Fiesta! page.

Form 14039 IRS identity theft affidavit
Excerpt of IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit

As Form 14039 notes right at top, it lets the IRS know that it needs to "mark an account to identify questionable activity." Since the crook beat you to electronic filing using your personal info, you'll send Form 14039 along with your legitimate paper tax return, which you can print from your software package.

Since tax software doesn't typically include Form 14039, you can use the fillable form version at IRS.gov, print it and then attach the form to your paper return.

Form 14039's second page has details, shown below, on where to mail everything.

Form 14039 submission instructions

Other ID theft alerts: You also might learn your tax info has been compromised if you get a notice from the IRS about a filing for which you have no involvement.

In that case, call the number on the snail mailed notice immediately. Then follow IRS instructions, which likely will include file Form 14039.

The IRS also has a special web page, Identity Theft Victim Assistance: How It Works, which has more information about how the IRS can help in this distressing situation.

And if you previously contacted the IRS and your identity theft matter was not resolved, you can contact the agency for specialized assistance toll-free at (800) 908-4490.

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