Watch for IRS e-mail scams |

Watch for IRS e-mail scams

Michele Knight

I’ve received several questions this year regarding scam/phishing e-mails promising tax refunds, and I want to set the record straight. The e-mail described below, or any like it, are SCAMS! Please do not ever respond to any e-mail claiming a connection with the IRS. The IRS does not discuss any tax account matters with taxpayers via e-mail. Let’s face it, do you really think they’d track you down to offer you money? If you receive an e-mail from the IRS, it most likely will have the official logo printed across the top, and that’s what fools people. Be cautious of any suspicious e-mail from any organization – logos are easily cut and pasted from the company’s real websites. In the instance of an IRS scam, the text is something like this:”After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of 620.50dolars. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it. A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline. To access the form for your tax refund, please click hereRegards,Internal Revenue Service Copyright 2008, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A.”Looking at an e-mail like this, there are a few giveaways that this is a scam: • Typos. Notice that the word “dolars” is misspelled, and the sentence “For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline” is incorrect grammar. Most scams are generated overseas by non-English speakers, and poor grammar is an instant giveaway.• The copyright states “Internal Revenue Service U.S.A.” which is clearly incorrect, because “U.S.A.” is not printed at the end of government correspondence for any agency.• If you have this e-mail in your inbox, you can mouse over the link and see what it leads to, but whatever you do, don’t click on it! Most scam e-mails have very long links that start with an odd website, not the site where the IRS houses all their information.• Taxpayers are required to file annual returns to claim refunds. There are few procedures in our tax system, and none which are completed with a simple form, which allow the IRS to calculate your tax refund on your behalf.According to a recent IRS press release, there are several new identity theft scams circulating around the Internet this year. The first scam involves the Making Work Pay provision of the 2009 economic recovery law. It offers the recipient the change to have their Making Work Pay Refund direct deposited into their bank account if the recipient registers their account information with the IRS. Taxpayers should be aware that only certain taxpayers are eligible for the Making Work Pay, and those eligible either receive it as a decrease in tax withholdings on their paychecks or a credit on the 2009 tax return. There is no means of collecting this credit by registering for a transfer from your bank account. Other phishing scams have been around a bit longer. We’ve all received an e-mail saying we have inherited funds and lottery winnings that we need to claim, or an uncle in Nigeria promising us riches if we just send a deposit. Another scam involves IRS Form W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding. While the form exists, it should be filed with your bank, never the IRS. Scammers are manipulating the official-looking IRS form to request additional information such as PIN numbers and mother’s maiden name, making the e-mail look a little more legit. Again, if you simply remember that the IRS never contacts taxpayers via e-mail, you’ll keep yourself safe!If you do receive a suspicious e-mail, do not open any attachments to the e-mail and do not click on any links, just in case they contain malicious code that could infect your computer. If you do believe the IRS owes you money or you want to verify whether the IRS is trying to contact you, you can always contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS asks that you forward any suspicious e-mails to, but then you should delete the e-mail from your inbox. Michele Knight, owner of Knight Accounting & Technology, is a CPA and QuickBooks ProAdvisor based in Dillon. Please visit for tax tricks and tips.