Tax Court Scam
In this scam, an e-mail that appears to come from the U.S. Tax Court contains a petition involving a court case between the IRS and the recipient. The document instructs the recipient to download other files. The downloads transfer malware, or malicious code, to the recipient’s computer.
There are various types of malware, which, for example, can hijack a victim’s computer hard drive to give someone remote access to the computer, or can search for passwords and other information and send them to the scammer.
The truth is that the Tax Court is not e-mailing notices to anyone who currently has a case before the court. Visit the court’s Web site at http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/ for more information. Recipients are advised to avoid clicking on any links in the e-mail and to delete the e-mail.
How Scams Work
To lure their victims, phishing scams use the name of a known institution, such as the IRS, to either offer a reward for taking a simple action, such as providing information, or threaten or imply an unpleasant consequence, such as losing a refund, for failing to take the requested action.
The goal of the scams is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers, which the scammers can use to commit identity theft.
Typically, identity thieves use a victim’s personal and financial data to empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commit crimes. Most of these fraudulent activities can be committed electronically from a remote location, including overseas. Committing these activities in cyberspace allows scammers to act quickly and cover their tracks before the victim becomes aware of the theft.
People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years – and their hard-earned money – cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their reputations and credit records. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities or may be refused loans, education, housing or cars.
What to Do
Anyone wishing to access the IRS Web site should type www.irs.gov into their Internet address window, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail or opening an attachment, either of which may download malicious code or send the recipient to a phony Web site.
Those who have received a questionable e-mail claiming to come from the IRS may forward it to the following address: email@example.com. Use the instructions contained in an article on this Web site titled “Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes.” Following the instructions will help the IRS track the suspicious e-mail to its origins and shut down the scam. Find the article by entering the words “suspicious e-mails” into the search box in the upper right corner of the page.
Those who have received a questionable telephone call that claims to come from the IRS may also use the firstname.lastname@example.org mailbox to notify the IRS.
The IRS has issued previous warnings on scams that use the IRS name to lend the scam legitimacy. More information on identity theft, phishing and telephone scams using the IRS name, logo or spoofed (copied) Web site is available this Web site. Enter the terms “phishing,” “identity theft” or “e-mail scams” into the search box in the upper right corner of the page.