Beware: IRS ransomware scam, tax fraud

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

ransomware, IRS, tax fraudIRS scams seem like a reoccurring topic in our blogs. Sadly, I doubt that will change anytime soon. While some scams lose their effectiveness with time and public awareness, scammers are constantly looking for new ways to take people’s money. The IRS has recently warned of a new scam that comes in the form of ransomware. If you are unfamiliar with ransomware, it is something that scares the daylights out of IT professionals. While ransomware has many different variations, the basic sequence goes like this:

The ransomware gets on your computer, often times via an email attachment that has been opened. Once opened, the ransomware quietly encrypts all your files. When the encryption is completed, you get a message demanding payment in order to regain access. While you might think your only choice is to pay the ransom, sadly there are stories of people who have paid the ransom and didn’t regain access. Who would have thought scammers would be dishonest?

Anyway, the IRS is warning that scammers are sending emails pretending to be the FBI and IRS. To make the email look more official, they have even included the emblems of both organizations. The email then instructs the recipient to click a link to download an FBI questionnaire. Once clicked, the link actually starts downloading the ransomware. So if you get an email that looks like this, do NOT click on the link!

Every time we talk about IRS scams, we usually say the following items, but it’s worth repeating:

  1. The IRS will never call, email or text demanding payment. The IRS will typically send you a letter stating that you owe taxes and you will then be given an opportunity to respond to the notice. They won’t demand payment immediately.
  2. The IRS will never tell you to pay a tax bill via prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers or other similar methods.
  3. The IRS will not threaten to bring in law enforcement, revoke your driver’s license or anything like that.

The IRS has provided an article that will help you know if it is really them or not. Click here to read it.

If you encounter an IRS scam, call 800-366-4484 to report it. You can also forward any IRS scam emails to phishing@irs.gov.

Richard Christensen