Ask About the New Phishing Scams
I've received two emails from the IRS this week, each asking me in a slightly different manner to fill out some attached W-4 forms and fax them to a given number. I'm afraid to answer these and I'm also afraid not to answer them. Do you have any advice for me?
Concerned in Chula Vista
I certainly do have some advice for you and anyone else who receives this sort of email.
Delete these messages immediately!
The IRS never initiates contact with a taxpayer via email.
This is an example of "phishing" at its worst. The crooks mock up websites identical to financial institutions or companies, and then send spam messages to lure you into revealing personal information. A W-4 is a perfect way to collect Social Security numbers plus accurate names and addresses.
I also received this particular scam this week. It came from: Internal Revenue Service [firstname.lastname@example.org] along with two MS Word attachments and said: Please see the attachment make sure you fill all the columns and send fax to: +1-646-308-1145.
Running this phone number into a search engine will reveal a host of other recipients and a legion of security firms noting this fraud.
The IRS Identity Theft web page provides excellent advice on how to recognize phishing scams for what they are . . . ID theft attempts on a massive scale. There are also links to other information, including how to report these scams and how to protect your tax information.
Phishing frauds are not unique to IRS imitators. CitiBank customers have been the target of thousands of these as has Pay Pal and hundreds of others.
The cost of phishing to a consumer who gets hooked by one of these scams can be incalculable if the objective was ID theft. If it was just credit card theft, the consumer's losses will likely be limited and his or her bank will pay the price.
Be aware that these scams evolve rapidly. Targeted phishing schemes are now called "spear phishing" and phishing scamming via cell phone texting is called "smishing!"
Lower your gullibility factor and resolve that if something doesn't look or sound quite right, trust your gut and give it a wide berth.