Phishing and Online Scam Tax-Time FAQ

Nathan Howard

by Nathan Howard, J.D. – Moneta’s Chief Compliance Officer

Question 1: What is a Phishing email?

These are emails that will typically direct the recipient to take some action that will ultimately result in the individual providing personal information, funds or both to a criminal or individual with criminal intentions. Often, phishing emails appear to be from an individual you know or work with and will request that you wire funds to them. Other examples include instances where a fraudulent email will be sent that look like they are from a legitimate source, such as the IRS, but will request that you provide personally identifiable information, such as your Social Security number.

Question 2A: What do I do if I receive an email that appears to be from the IRS or any State’s Department of Revenue requesting that I provide or fax related information on my investments or inheritance?

Do not reply, open any attachments, or click on any links. If you do any of these things you may infect your computer with a virus or other malicious code. Immediately forward the email as-is to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov, and then delete the original email.

Question 2B: What if the email looks like a phishing attempt, but it’s not from the IRS?

Do not reply, open any attachments, or click on any links. Forward the email as-is to the IRS at reportphishing@antiphishing.org, and then delete the original email.

Question 2C: What if I’m concerned that the email contains malicious code or a virus, but it’s not from the IRS?

Do not reply, open any attachments, or click on any links. Forward the email to your internet service provider’s abuse department and/or to spam@uce.gov, and then delete the original.

Question 2D: I clicked on an email that may contain malicious code or a virus, now what?

If you believe the email contained a virus or malicious code, visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov to learn what to do if you suspect you have malware on your computer.

Question 3: What should I do if I receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS?

Record the employee’s name, badge number, call back number and caller ID, if any. Then call 1-800-366-4484 to verify that the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. If the individual is an IRS employee, you should then call them back. If the individual is not an IRS employee, you should report the incident to phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “IRS Phone Scam”.

Question 4: What should I do if I receive a letter, notice or form via paper mail or fax claiming to be from the IRS but I suspect that it is not?

Go to the IRS home page and run a search based on any identifying numbers shown on the letter, notice or form that you receive or search the “Forms and Pubs” page on the www.irs.gov website. If the letter, notice or form you received is legitimate, you’ll find instructions on how to respond or complete the applicable document. If you don’t find information or instructions, or the instructions are different from what you were told to do in the letter, notice or form, call 1-800-829-1040 to determine if the document is legitimate. If it is not legitimate, you should report the incident to phishing@irs.gov.

Question 5: I was searching for the IRS.gov website but found a website that appears to be bogus, what do I do?

Send the URL/web address of the suspicious site to phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “Suspicious Website”.

Question 6: I received a text message from the IRS. Have they finally entered the 21st Century or is this a scam?

It’s probably a scam. Do not reply, open any attachments, or click on any links. If you do any of these things you may infect your computer or phone with a virus or other malicious code. Forward the text message as-is to the IRS at 202-552-1226 (and standard text messaging rate will apply). If you are willing and able, the IRS would also like you to send a separate text with just the originating number to 202-552-1226 as well. You should then delete the original text.

As cyber crime becomes more and more prevalent, individuals must become more proactive in protecting themselves. By reading and internalizing this list, you have helped minimize your vulnerability as a potential target.

Plus, if you have any questions or concerns, you can always contact your Moneta Team for assistance.