It is pretty alarming to get a text message from the “IRS” claiming to be filing a lawsuit against you for suspicious activity, and the only way to stop your arrest warrant is by sending your personal information right away. But you should never do this. In late September, the Internal Revenue Service warned the public of an increase in IRS-themed “smishing” with the intent of stealing your personal and financial information. The IRS has officially identified thousands of these fraudulent original domains just this year, with cases in the last few weeks increasing exponentially.
“In recent months, the IRS has reported multiple large-scale smishing campaigns that have delivered thousands—and even hundreds of thousands—of IRS-themed messages in hours or a few days, far exceeding previous levels of activity,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a press release last month.
What are “smishing scams”?
Smishing is the fraudulent practice of targeting victims through text messages using a reputable company or organization name with the intent of tricking them into giving personal information away.
Some more advanced techniques send you an alphanumeric “verification code” to your phone and ask to recite or send it back to them over text or over the phone. Once the scammers have that code, they have full access to your information and can access accounts under your name. Never send verification codes back to unverified sources.
How to recognize fake IRS texts
The most important thing to remember is that the IRS will never contact you through email or text asking you for any personal or financial information or account numbers. They contact through official ground mail first.
Texts come claiming to be from the IRS offering services like fake COVID relief, tax credits, or help setting up accounts. If you are sent a link where you are prompted to input any personal information, even if you are offered some service in return, that is a red flag.
What to do if you get one of these texts
A good rule of thumb when you are unsure about giving any sensitive information over the phone, text, or online, is to call the official number of the organization and cross-reference to see if the information you are being asked to provide is, indeed, necessary. If the organization has no record of needing that information from you, you can be certain you were targeted for a smishing scam.
The next best thing to do is to report the number to [email protected]. This will help the IRS keep track of the latest tactics and report them to service providers who can take action against these fraudulent domains to prevent others from being victims.
The following steps are the official IRS guidelines to report smishing:
- Send an email to [email protected].
- Copy the caller ID number (or email address).
- Paste the number (or email address) into the email.
- Press and hold the SMS/text message and select “copy.”
- Paste the message into the email.
- If possible, include the exact date, time, time zone and telephone number that received the message.
- Send the email to [email protected].
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