There is a problem out in the cyber world. There is a scam moving through emails, and unlike some that are pretty generic or obvious, this one is good. Really good.
And you need to be careful.
Contacted by the IRS
Nothing is more nerve-wracking for a small business owner than a letter or email from the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS. The only good IRS is an IRS that sends you a tax refund at the end of the year. An email from the IRS – especially one that comes from a domain like firstname.lastname@example.org – is downright terrifying.
But that’s exactly what’s happening.
A phishing scam is happening through email.
Scammers have managed to get ahold of a .gov url, which makes the whole thing appear to be very authentic. The emails they send seem to be from the government, but they aren’t.
Consider the email that was sent to PissedConsumer last week.
‘Complaint against your company
Internal Revenue Service
From: Internal Revenue Service <email@example.com>
Dear business owner,
A criminal complaint has been filled against your company.
Your company is being accused of trying to commit tax evasion schemes.
The full text of the complaint file ( .DOC type ) can be viewed in your Microsoft Word, complaint is attached.
AN official response from your part is required, in order to take further action.
Please review the charges brought forward in the complaint file, and contact us as soon as possible by :
Telephone Assistance for Businesses: Toll-Free, 1-800-829-4933
Internal Revenue Service Fraud Prevention Department”
Aside from the terrific irony that a formal complaint email was sent to a complaint website, this notice got our attention. The .gov URL made it past our spam filters and we have to check it twice to be sure it wasn’t authentic.
Fortunately, we were able to do our research quickly and we avoided opening the complaint document that was attached to the email. That document contained the malware that would compromise their computers and perhaps even the small business they were trying to protect in the first place.
Protecting Yourself from IRS Scams
Scams that appear to come from the IRS are doubly powerful. They catch your attention like this one did when it came to our offices, and the fact that it is from the IRS makes it seem possible that there is something legitimate you need to investigate.
If you do get an email from the IRS, don’t react immediately. Remember a few key points:
The IRS will only contact you via United State mail. That means an unsolicited email is never actually from the IRS.
If you are contacted by the IRS, there is always a phone number you can call to confirm. The IRS is aware of the scams and tries to prevent problems by providing contact numbers.
Finally, if you do want to visit the IRS website, go directly to the website by typing in the URL, irs.gov. Never click through a link in an email as that is where everything can so quickly go wrong.