College students, professors, and staff members are being warned to look out for scammers impersonating Internal Revenue Service officials. The Federal Trade Commission reports that malicious actors are sending phishing messages to consumers with “.edu” email addresses in an attempt to collect sensitive personal and financial information.
The scheme starts with a scammer sending a message to the victim saying they have information about a tax refund. Sometimes the message has a subject line like “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.” In the body of the email, the scammer tries to get the victim to click on a link to submit an online form for their supposed refund.
Unfortunately, if the recipient clicks on the link and fills out any information on the next page, they’ll give away sensitive data like their full name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, and other personal information that can be used for identity theft.
What to do
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it’s important for consumers to look out for the warning signs of this scam so they can avoid becoming a victim.
“The emails can look really real and include the IRS logo. But no matter what the email looks like or says, one thing stays true: the IRS will not first contact you by email. They will always start by sending you a letter. And, to confirm that it’s really the IRS, you can call them directly at 800-829-1040,” advised FTC Consumer Education Specialist Ari Lazarus.
If you’ve already fallen for this ploy, the FTC says to report the fraud to its identity theft website. If you’ve received an email from a potential scammer and haven’t yet taken action, you can forward it as an attachment to email@example.com and also report it to the FTC’s site here.