There’s no rest for the wicked. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning taxpayers of a recent spike in IRS-themed texting scams aimed at stealing both personal and financial information.
How much of a spike? Checking the latest figures from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), ConsumerAffairs saw nearly triple the number of government or tax-related fraud reports than there were at the beginning of 2022. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig says it is "phishing on an industrial scale."
The IRS said that much of the scam action is the smishing variety targeting mobile phone users. The scam messages often look like they’re actually coming from the IRS, complete with come-ons like fake COVID relief money, tax credits, or help setting up an IRS online account.
How good are phone scammers? So good that James Quaid, CEO of Go Talk Wireless, said his primary motivation for starting his company in the phone security sector came when he was personally victimized.
"With the rise and adoption of Fintech services, particularly since COVID, individuals are more comfortable responding to SMS message requests, and as such it can open the door to scammers. It is important that consumers take a moment to consider how genuine a message may be," Quaid told ConsumerAffairs.
The trigger point taxpayers need to watch out for
In the latest flurry of smishes, the leverage point the scammers try to get the text recipients to act on are links that lead to phishing websites where the scammer will try to collect the victim’s information or potentially send malicious code onto their phones.
“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," Rettig said.
If you receive one of these attempts, help the IRS, please
You won’t get anything additional in your next tax refund check for doing it, but the IRS is asking taxpayers to report these scams to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That allows the IRS to report these scams to the mobile service providers for action, protecting other taxpayers who might receive a variant of the same scam.
As an added layer of security, mobile carriers are asking for the consumer’s help, too, when they receive a suspicious text message.
How to do your part
The following process will help capture important details for reporting smishing to the IRS:
Create a new email to email@example.com.
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.
- Then, send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.