Phishing Scam Targets Taxpayers

Fake IRS email tries to reel in unsuspecting taxpayers

By Kimberly King
|  Friday, Sep 9, 2011  |  Updated 6:43 PM CDT
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Weatherford Police Chief Mike Manning received an email that was part of a sophisticated phishing scam.

Kimberly King, NBCDFW.com

Weatherford Police Chief Mike Manning received an email that was part of a sophisticated phishing scam.

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A North Texas police chief is warning taxpayers about a bogus Internal Revenue Service email.

Weatherford Police chief Mike Manning said he received a email at work that said his payment for his taxes had been rejected by the electronic federal payment tax system.

“Anytime you see something from the IRS, you have an initial moment of panic. 'Did I pay my taxes? Are they about to audit me?'” he said.

The email's subject line read "rejected federal tax payment and canceled tax transfer."

But Manning said his first red flag was that the email arrived in his work account.

“Any personal business I have I do not use my work email,” he said.

The Internal Revenue Service says taxpayers should not click on any links in the email.

“We have been contacted by several taxpayers who have received these emails, and we don't want them to click on them,” said Clay Sanford of the IRS Dallas office.

The IRS said uses the U.S. Postal Service when it contacts taxpayers for audits.

The only time the agency contacts someone by email is if the taxpayer has specifically signed up to receive some type of email communication from the IRS.

“We don’t send unsolicited emails to anyone and especially emails about a tax account," Sanford said.

He said that email "phishing" scams have become more sophisticated. The emails use IRS artwork and font styles, he said.

“They’re mimicking the IRS website," Sanford said. "They’re making it look just like our website.”

Phishing is a type of Internet fraud that aims to steal personal information such as credit cards, Social Security numbers, bank information or user IDS and passwords. Phishing emails often include a link to a website that asks for personal or financial information.

"With the electronic age and the ability to use email for contacts, they can send out thousands of emails to thousands of broad email addresses, and if you get three or four that have a hit on it, you've made couple thousand dollars for five minutes of unethical work,” Manning said.

The IRS said people can contact the agency about suspicious emails by emailing phishing@irs.gov.

More: Advice on how to avoid phishing scams from the Anti-Phishing Working Group

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