The IRS has discovered and reported thousands of fraudulent domains linked to numerous MMS/SMS/text scams (also known as smishing) that target taxpayers so far in 2022.
The Internal Revenue Service is alerting taxpayers to a recent rise in texting scams featuring the IRS and designed to steal sensitive personal and financial data.
The IRS has discovered and reported thousands of fraudulent domains linked to numerous MMS/SMS/text scams (also known as smishing) that target taxpayers so far in 2022. Smishing with an IRS theme has dramatically increased over the past few months, especially over the past few weeks.
Mobile phone users are the target of smishing campaigns, and the scam messages frequently appear to be from the IRS and offer enticements like phony COVID relief, tax credits, or assistance setting up an IRS online account. These IRS-related scams can be reported by victims to email@example.com.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said that this was industrial-scale phishing, so thousands of people could be at risk of receiving these scam messages. The IRS has reported multiple large-scale smishing campaigns that have sent thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of IRS-themed messages in a matter of hours or days, far exceeding previous levels of activity.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the IRS, along with Security Summit partners in the states and the nation’s tax community, warns both the general public and the tax professional community to keep an eye out for scams that could jeopardize sensitive tax data.
The latest scam texts frequently ask taxpayers to click a link that will take them to phishing websites, which may try to gather their information or possibly download malicious software to their phones. The IRS never sends emails or texts requesting account numbers or other sensitive information. For taxpayers, each of these messages ought to raise red flags.
The IRS noticed an increase in reports of smishing scams requesting financial and personal information from taxpayers starting in the fall of 2020. During the pandemic, these smishing campaigns persisted. The IRS has taken a number of actions to alert the public to this persistent threat, including publishing a video explaining how to avoid IRS text message scams.
Taxpayers should continue to report these scams to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a result of their reporting, the IRS is able to alert the proper service providers to these scams, preventing other taxpayers from falling victim to a different variation of the same scam.
The IRS is working to stop online fraud, but criminals are using ever-evolving strategies to cast a wider net and seize more victims. One such strategy is to use algorithms to automatically create hundreds or even thousands of fraudulent domains. For instance, a recent campaign created over 1,000 fraudulent domains with just thirty-two stolen or fictitious email addresses.
The best offense, according to Rettig, is a good defense. Taxpayers and tax professionals must remain vigilant in the face of suspicious IRS-related emails and text messages. If someone receives a scam message, sending important details from the text to the IRS can help them disrupt the scams and protect others.
Reporting smishing involving the IRS
Only IRS, Treasury, and/or tax-related online scams are processed through email@example.com. Anything else cannot be sent to this email address.
Security specialists are able to identify and stop these scams with IRS themes. The body of the text and the sender’s information should both be included in one email or text when reporting scam texts to the IRS. It is preferable to copy and paste the text into an email. Screenshots can be sent, though, if necessary. Wireless providers can also receive scam SMS/text messages via text to 7726 (SPAM), which enables them to recognize and block similar messages in the future.
The procedure listed below will assist in gathering crucial information for reporting smishing to the IRS:
- Make a new email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- note down the caller ID number (or email address).
- Copy and paste the message into the email including the exact date, time, time zone, and phone number that received the message if possible.
- Email the IRS at email@example.com.
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