Huge Increase in Scam Texts – Don’t Be a Victim

Article Highlights:

  • ID Thieves Are Constantly After Your ID Information

  • There Has Been an Exponential Increase in Text Scams

  • Your Phone Is Their Target

  • How to Report Text and Phishing Scams to the Government.

Taxpayers should be aware of the recent increase in IRS-themed texting scams aimed at stealing personal and financial information.

So far in 2022, the IRS has identified thousands of fraudulent domains tied to multiple texting scams (known as smishing) targeting taxpayers. In recent months, IRS-themed smishing has increased exponentially.

Smishing campaigns target mobile phone users, and the scam messages often look like they’re coming from the IRS, offering lures like fake COVID relief, tax credits or help setting up an IRS online account. Recipients of these IRS-related scams should not act on or respond to them but should report them to phishing@irs.gov as instructed below.

In recent months, the IRS reports that smishing has reached an industrial scale and multiple large-scale smishing campaigns have delivered hundreds of thousands of IRS-themed messages in hours or a few days, far exceeding previous levels of activity.

Lately the scam texts often ask taxpayers to click a link where phishing websites will try to collect their information or potentially send malicious code onto their phones. The IRS does not send emails or text messages asking for personal or financial information or account numbers. These messages should all be red flags for taxpayers.

Beginning in the fall of 2020, the IRS observed an increase in reports of smishing scams requesting taxpayer personal and financial information. These smishing campaigns continued through the pandemic. The IRS has taken numerous steps to warn people of this ongoing threat, including posting of a video that everyone should watch about how to avoid IRS text message scams. If you have children and elderly family members with cell phones make sure they also watch that video.

While the IRS works to shut down online fraud, criminals are using ever-evolving tactics to cast a wider net and catch more victims, like using algorithms to automatically generate hundreds or even thousands of fraudulent domains. For example, a recent campaign used just three dozen stolen or bogus email addresses to create over 1,000 fraudulent domains.

Particularly in these cases, the best offense is a good defense. Taxpayers need to remain constantly vigilant with suspicious IRS-related emails and text messages. And if you get one, sending the IRS important details from the text can help them put an end to, or at least slow down, the scams and protect others.

The IRS maintains an inbox, phishing@irs.gov, to process IRS, Treasury and/or tax-related online scams only.

Reporting IRS-themed texts to the IRS allows security professionals to track and disrupt these scams. Individuals reporting scam texts to the IRS should include both the body of the message and the sender’s information in one email or text. Copying the actual text into an email is preferred. However, if necessary, screenshots can be sent. Scam SMS/text messages can also be copied and forwarded to wireless providers via text to 7726 (SPAM), which helps them spot and block similar messages in the future.

The following process will help capture important details for reporting smishing to the IRS:

  • Create a new email to phishing@irs.gov.

  • 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 phishing@irs.gov.

Remember, it you accidently divulge your ID information to scammers it could be the beginning of a financial nightmare that could go on for years. Be careful and don’t be a victim.

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