Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

It’s for you, it’s the I.R.S. Or is it?

It’s that time again – your W-2 has come in the mail and Uncle Sam is about to give you a nice refund, or ask you politely to pay, in-full, your obligation to the state and nation. 

As in previous years, the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.), state tax agencies, and tax industry professionals renewed their warnings about email scams to steal W-2 information, and subsequently the hard-earned money of taxpayers.

Phishing is so prevalent, the I.R.S. included it on their “Dirty Dozen” list of scams in 2016. Just like you didn’t trust that fake “prince” who used to email you weekly asking for money, don’t trust the “I.R.S.” if they email you out of the blue soliciting W-2 or other tax information.

The I.R.S will always use the postal service as its first means of communication to communicate with taxpayers.

It doesn’t stop with phishing emails, though. Callers impersonating I.R.S collection agents were reported to authorities so often, the fraud became the most reported scam in the nation in 2016 according to the Better Business Bureau. The reports was so vast this particular act of deception accounted for 25 percent of all reported scams in 2016.

While the I.R.S impersonation tactic is the belly of the tax-scam-iceberg, you also have to look out for the tip: CEOs and managers are also popular avenues of impersonation for criminals. Be on the lookout for phishing emails from your “manager,” too.

If you get an unsolicited call from the “I.R.S.” this tax season, do not act on it. Rather, report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484. Be sure to take down the phone number and any names you may be given during the call, but do not give any personal information to the caller.

If you receive an unsolicited or suspicious email from the I.R.S, or from somebody impersonating a superior, forward it to phishing@irs.gov and to abuse@iastate.edu, and do not click on any links in the message.

Stay safe out there Cyclones, and remember, in the words of the I.R.S.’s former senior lawyer, “The I.R.S does not call people.”