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IRS Phishing and Other Email Scams

A client recently called and asked if he should open an email attachment from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., which was telling him that if he clicked on the link, he would receive a $223 refund that the IRS neglected to give him.  Legitimate? Of course not.  Had my client clicked on that email attachment, he would have likely caught a computer virus, or worse, given someone the tools to commit identity theft.

While we all know to be careful of emails from unknown sources, an email disguised as an IRS communication might not stand out as unusual, or dangerous, to us.  Likewise, while we all know not to volunteer our Social Security numbers on the internet, if we think it's the dreaded taxman, we might erroneously let our guard down.

Here are some basics to remember to ensure that your Social Security number doesn't get caught in the IRS phishing scam net:

  • The IRS already knows your Social Security Number.  They're not going to ask you for it.
  • How can the IRS contact you by email if you've never given them your email address?  I guarantee that your email address appears nowhere on your tax return.  There's simply no place to put it.  Also, remember that the IRS likes to go for the lowest hanging apple on the tree; it's not going to take the time to comb databases or do Google searches, to find you. But, scammers will.
  • Technologically, the IRS has progressed to the mid-1990s.  They still have multiple databases and multiple systems.  Currently, the only contact information the IRS has for you is your physical street address that's right snail mail.  So if the IRS has $223 of your refund money, or if they are inviting you to an audit appointment, those contacts will be done by mail, and only by mail.
  • Lastly, don't expect a phone call from the IRS, either.  If an IRS person calls you, it certainly won't be out of the blue. And if it does happen, you are entitled to the IRS person's badge number, and also his manager's name, badge number and telephone number, before you talk to that person.

Finally, remember that if something seems too good to be true (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has money for you!), it probably is too good to be true, that is. Best thing to do when contacted by the IRS call me!