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Beware latest tax scams: fake IRS refund emails to taxpayers, EFIN phishing of tax pros

Text scam smartphone

Crooks know you're anxiously awaiting your tax refund. That's why this filing season they're again impersonating Internal Revenue Service agents.

The latest refund scam is an email or text about your tax refund or tax refund e-statement. In both cases, warns the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the messages are efforts to steal your identity and money.

As in previous incarnations, these latest fake IRS messages encourage recipients to click a link, supposedly to "check on your tax refund e-statement," or "fill out a form to get your refund."

The FTC provided the image below of one of these fake IRS refund emails:

Scam fake irs refund email FTC warning 2024
Again, that's not how the IRS operates. The IRS doesn't send tax refunds by email or text or social media, notes Larissa Bungo, FTC Senior Attorney.

But apparently there are enough taxpayers who still haven't heard the cautions. So the FTC is reiterating its message to beware of such communications.

"It might look legit, but it's an email or text fake, trying to trick you into clicking on links so they can steal from you," added Bungo.

Tax pros targeted. Again: Individual filers aren't the only tax scam targets. Earlier this filing season, the IRS warned tax preparers to be on the lookout for email schemes where cybercriminals pose as potential clients.

Now the con artists are targeting tax professionals with a spearphishing email to collect their Electronic Filing Identification Numbers, or EFINs.

The IRS ways the scammer poses as a tax software provider and emails the tax pro with a request they provide their EFIN information by fax. When the tax pro faxes back the EFIN information, the scammer uses it to steal client data and file fraudulent tax returns for refunds.

The IRS provided the following sample phishing email that's been going out to tax pros:

Dear [recipient_email_address],

Help us protect you.

Because many Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs) are stolen each year and used to file fraudulent tax returns, the IRS has asked software vendors, such as Software A, to verify who the EFIN owner is by getting a copy of the IRS issued EFIN document(s). Our records show that we do not have a document for one or more of the EFINs that you transmit with.

What this means for you: Until your EFIN is verified, you will be unable to transmit returns. Please provide a copy of your EFIN Account Summary from IRS e-Services, with a status of ‘Completed’, to Software B for verification.

To send us your EFIN Summary document:

  1. Fax to Software B at 631-995-5984

PLEASE NOTE THAT YOUR PREPARER TAX IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (PTIN) APPLICATION CANNOT BE USED AS DOCUMENTATION FOR YOUR EFIN.

If you do not have the above documentation you can get a copy of your IRS Application Summary from IRS e-Services by following the below steps or call the IRS e-Services helpline at 866-255-0654.

  1. Sign in to your IRS e-Services account
  2. Choose your organization from the list provided and click Submit
  3. Click the Application link to access your existing application
  4. Click the e-File Application link
  5. Select the existing application link that applies to your organization
  6. Click the Application Summary link for the area of the application you wish to enter
  7. Click the Print Summary link at the bottom of the summary presented on the screen

If you have any questions please contact the Compliance Department at xxx-xx-xxxx for assistance.

Thank you for your business. We look forward to serving you this coming season. Software B (edited)


Don't comply, report:
Preparers who receive the EFIN emails should not respond to them or follow the directions in the email. They should report it immediately to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, as well as send the email as an attachment to [email protected].

If data theft may have occurred, tax pros should contact their local IRS Stakeholder Liaison. That staff will let the appropriate IRS offices know to take steps to block fraudulent returns in compromised clients' names, and assist tax pros through the process.

Tax pros also should alert the tax software provider that scammers are impersonating, so the tax companies can take security steps.

Similar advice applies to individuals who get the fake IRS refund texts or emails. Forward the phishing email to the IRS. Never click on any links, which can put malware on your computer or phone.

If you are expecting a refund, check on its status directly by using the IRS' Where's My Refund? online tracker.

And if you did click on an IRS scam message link or shared personal or financial information, the FTC wants to know, even if you didn't lose money. Let the agency know at [email protected]. You also can get a free, customized recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov.

"With filing season underway, scammers use this time of year to target tax professionals as well as taxpayers in hopes of stealing information that can be used to try filing fraudulent tax returns," said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel.

Both tax pros and taxpayers should be extra cautious and suspicious of unsolicited tax-related communication, especially those that arrive through channels not normally used by the IRS.

A little extra caution at tax time can mean a world of difference, noted Werfel.

You also might find these items of interest:

 

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