• NEW YORK – There is no doubt that scammers are always on the lookout for how to trick new victims.

On this occasion, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned taxpayers about a recent increase in text message scams allegedly coming from the agency and seeking to steal personal and financial information.

So far this year, the IRS has identified and reported thousands of fraudulent domains linked to multiple MMS/SMS/text scams, known as smishing , targeting taxpayers. In recent months, and especially in recent weeks, IRS-themed smishing has increased exponentially.

Crime campaigns target mobile phone users, and scam messages often appear to come from the IRS, offering purported benefits or relief such as bogus COVID-19 related help, tax credits, or help setting up an account IRS online.

“Thousands of people may be at risk of receiving these fraudulent messages,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “In recent months, the IRS has reported several large-scale smishing campaigns that have delivered thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of IRS-themed messages in hours or a few days, far exceeding previous activity levels.” .

Next month in October is Cyber ​​Security Awareness Month and the IRS and Security Summit partners in the states and the nation’s tax community remind individuals and the professional tax community to be vigilant to scams that could put sensitive tax data at risk.

How can I recognize a fraudulent text message and see it as an alert

In the latest activity, the scam text messages often ask taxpayers to click on a link where websites will try to collect their information or potentially deliver malicious code to their phones. The IRS does not send emails or text messages requesting personal or financial information or account numbers. All of these messages should be red flags for taxpayers.

Example of a fake message: People receive a text message that says “You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from the COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment… Continue here to accept this payment…”. The text includes a link to a fraudulent web address. This bogus link appears to come from a state agency or aid organization. It leads people to a fake website that resembles the IRS.gov Get My Payment website. If people visit the fake website and enter their personal and financial account information, the scammers collect it.

What should I do if I receive one of these false messages

Anyone who receives this fraudulent text message is asked to take a screenshot and include it in an email to [email protected] with the following information:

  • Date/time/time zone the text message was received.
  • The phone number that received the text message.
  • The IRS does not send unsolicited text messages or emails. The agency will never demand immediate payment by gift card, prepaid debit card, or wire transfer, or threaten to arrest a taxpayer.

The report allows the IRS to report these scams to the appropriate service providers for action, protecting other taxpayers who might receive a variant of the same scam.

Starting in the fall of 2020, the IRS saw an increase in reports of smishing scams requesting personal and financial information from taxpayers. These smishing campaigns continued throughout the pandemic. The IRS has taken numerous steps to warn people about this ongoing threat, including posting a video on how to avoid IRS text message scams.

As the IRS works to crack down on online fraud, criminals use ever-evolving tactics to cast a wider net and ensnare more victims, such as using algorithms to automatically generate hundreds or even thousands of fraudulent domains. For example, a recent campaign used just three dozen stolen or fake email addresses to create more than 1,000 fraudulent domains.

“Particularly in these cases, the best offense is a good defense,” Rettig said. “Taxpayers and tax professionals should constantly be on the lookout for suspicious IRS-related emails and text messages. And if you do receive one, sending the IRS important details from the text can help us disrupt scams and protect others.” .

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