National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) Appleton, WI – Fraud perpetrators have found the perfect means to intimidate taxpayers into filling out legitimate-looking, but phony, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms – using the threat of government action or loss of tax refunds if you don’t respond. In the latest e-mail scam, consumers have received a “Tax Avoidance Investigation” e-mail claiming to come from the IRS’ “Fraud Department” in which the recipient is asked to complete an “investigation form,” for which there is a link contained in the e-mail. It is believed that clicking on the link may activate a Trojan Horse that has the potential to take over a person’s computer hard drive and allow someone to have remote access to the computer.
“Everyone should beware of these scam artists,” said Kevin M. Brown, Acting IRS Commissioner. “Always exercise caution when you receive unsolicited e-mails or e-mails from senders you don’t know.” The IRS reminds taxpayers that it does not send out unsolicited e-mails and it never e-mails requests for personal and financial information including PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank, or other financial accounts.
If you do receive a questionable e-mail claiming to be from the IRS – do not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the e-mail. The IRS encourages you to forward those e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. The term “phishing” describes the activity of sending e-mail that claims to be from some well-known organization to trick the recipient into revealing information for use in identity theft.
Since the IRS established the e-mail fraud mailbox last year, it has received more than 17,700 e-mails from taxpayers reporting more than 240 separate phishing incidents. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has currently identified host sites in at least 27 different countries, as well as in the United States. Fraudulent form information should be faxed to TIGTA at 202.927.7018, or mail to TIGTA Hotline, P.O. Box 589, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, D.C. 20044-0589. TIGTA’s website is www.ustreas.gov/tigta, and their phone number is 800.366.4484.
“To protect yourself from having your identity stolen, guard your personal information, and always verify the validity of any forms or correspondence requesting you to divulge personal information,” advises Cindy Hockenberry, enrolled agent and tax information analyst with the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). “If you have any question at all, look up the number and call the organization that sent the correspondence BEFORE supplying any information. Do not rely on phone numbers or e-mail addresses provided with correspondence."
Be suspicious of any unsolicited correspondence that requests the following types of information:
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Passport number
- Bank name
- Credit card information
- Account number, type, and date opened
- E-mail address
- Daytime phone number
- Frequency of U.S. visits
- Information about spouses, children, and parents.
Any website that collects personal information should contain “https” in the URL address at the top (the s indicates that it is a secure site). It should also have a padlock in your browser’s status bar. Double-click on the padlock to see the website’s security certificate. Certificates show the owner of the website in the “Issued to” line. An @ sign, “under construction,” or “cannot be located” in this line is reason for suspicion. The certificate should also show dates with a range of only a few years in the “Valid from” line (such as 7/29/05 – 7/29/07). Another way to view this information is by going to File, Properties on your menu bar. If there is ANY question in your mind about any website, do not use the link. Instead, login to the website directly (such as www.irs.gov), and find phone numbers to call. Be safe, not sorry.
Tax professionals are experts who keep current on tax law changes. They can save you time and offer insight on how to use the tax breaks available to you. To find a professional tax preparer, look to NATP whose members subscribe to a strict code of ethics and standards of professional conduct. NATP maintains a listing of professionals in your area.
Members of the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) assist over seven million taxpayers with tax preparation and planning. The average NATP member has been in the tax business for over 20 years and holds a tax/financial designation and/or a college degree. NATP has more than 18,000 members nationwide. Members include individual tax preparers, enrolled agents, certified public accountants, accountants, attorneys, and financial planners. Learn more at www.natptax.com.
NATP is a nonprofit professional association founded in 1979 to serve professionals working in all areas of tax practice through professional education, tax research, and products. The national headquarters, located in Appleton, WI, employs over 40 staff members.
Updated 25 November 2013
Originally from 2007