IRS warns of e-mail scam, identity threat

Staff reports

NEW ORLEANS – The Internal Revenue Service advised Thursday there may be a scam waiting in e-mail inboxes that looks official but could be dangerous to computer users and their computers.

“We’re getting reports of an e-mail that appears to come from the IRS and tells recipients to fill out an attached form and fax it in,” said IRS spokesperson Dee Harris. "Other scam e-mails ask you to click on a link and provide personal information online."

No matter what approach the scammers use, there are two things the IRS needs people to remember:

• The IRS never sends e-mails about your taxes.

• If you get a scam e-mail, don’t access any links or attachments.

Persons who access a link or attachment in a scam e-mail may allow the scammer to download malicious software to their computer, Harris warned.

“You should immediately scan for viruses and spyware, plus be alert for suspicious activity on your financial accounts,” she said.

Individuals, who have responded to a scam e-mail and provided their private information, should immediately take steps to prevent identity theft. These steps include contacting the Federal Trade Commission and are outlined on the official IRS Web site, www.irs.gov.

Taxpayers can help the IRS stop scammers by sending the original scam e-mail to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. The e-mail must be forwarded using special instructions at IRS.gov or it loses the encoding needed to track it to its source, Harris said.

For more information about tax scams, visit www.irs.gov and check out the Dirty Dozen, a list of tax scams updated each year by the IRS.  The IRS also provides information on its Web site to help taxpayers protect their personal and financial information. Just type "Identity Theft" in the key word search feature for additional information.