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Recent Schemes (IRS)

When the IRS learns about schemes involving use of the IRS name, it tries to alert consumers as well as authorities that can shut down the scheme, if possible. The most recent schemes are listed below.

  • A new variation of the refund scheme (see items below) is directed toward organizations that distribute funds to other organizations or individuals. In an attempt to seem legitimate, the scam e-mail claims to be sent by, and contains the name and supposed signature of, the Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations area of the IRS. The e-mail asks recipients to click on a link to access a form for a tax refund. In reality, taxpayers claim their tax refunds through the filing of an annual tax return, not a separate application form. 
  • In a variation, an e-mail scam claims to come from  the IRS and the Taxpayer Advocate Service (a genuine and independent organization within the IRS whose employees assist taxpayers with unresolved tax problems). The e-mail says that the recipient is eligible for a tax refund and directs the recipient to click on a link that leads to a fake IRS Web site.
  • A scam e-mail that appears to be a solicitation from the IRS and the U.S. government for charitable contributions to victims of the recent Southern California wildfires has been making the rounds. A link in the e-mail, when clicked, sends the e-mail recipients to a Web site that looks like the IRS Web site, but isn't. They are then directed to click on a link that opens a donation form that asks for personal and financial information. The scammers can use that information to gain access to the e-mail recipients' financial accounts. 
  • A recent e-mail scam tells taxpayers that the IRS has calculated their "fiscal activity" and that they are eligible to receive a tax refund of a certain amount. Taxpayers receive a page of, or are sent to, a Web site (titled "Get Your Tax Refund!") that copies the appearance of the genuine "Where's My Refund?" interactive page on the genuine IRS Web site. Like the real "Where's My Refund?" page, taxpayers are asked to enter their SSNs and filing status. However, the phony Web page asks taxpayers to enter their credit card account numbers instead of the exact amount of refund as shown on their tax return, as the real "Where's My Refund?" page does.
  • In a new phishing scam, an e-mail purporting to come from the IRS advises taxpayers they can receive $80 by filling out an online customer satisfaction survey. In addition to standard customer satisfaction survey questions, the survey requests the name and phone number of the participant and also asks for credit card information.
  • In another recent scam, consumers have received a "Tax Avoidance Investigation" e-mail claiming to come from the IRS' "Fraud Department" in which the recipient is asked to complete an "investigation form," for which there is a link contained in the e-mail, because of possible fraud that the recipient committed. It is believed that clicking on the link may activate a Trojan Horse.
  • An e-mail scheme claiming to come from the IRS's Criminal Investigation division tells the recipient that they are under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Board. The e-mail seeks to entice people to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more information about the complaint against them. The e-mail link and attachment contain a Trojan Horse that can take over the person’s computer hard drive and allow someone to have remote access to the computer.
  • Another scheme suggests that a customer has filed a complaint against a company, of which the e-mail recipient is a member, and that the IRS can act as an arbitrator. This appears to be aimed at business as well as individual taxpayers.
  • One e-mail scam, fraught with grammatical errors and typos, looks like a page from the IRS Web site and claims to be from the "IRS Antifraud Comission" (sic), a fictitious group. The e-mail claims someone has enrolled the taxpayer's credit card in EFTPS and has tried to pay taxes with it. The e-mail also says there have been fraud attempts involving the taxpayer's bank account. The e-mail claims money was lost and "remaining founds" (sic) are blocked. Recipients are asked to click on a link that will help them recover their funds, but the subsequent site asks for personal information that the thieves could use to steal the taxpayer’s identity.
  • E-mails claiming to come from tax-refunds@irs.gov, admin@irs.gov and similar variations told the recipients that they were eligible to receive a tax refund for a given amount. It directed recipients to claim the refund by using a link contained in the e-mail which sent the recipient to a Web site. The site, a copy of the IRS Web site, displayed an interactive page similar to a genuine IRS one; however, it had been modified to ask for personal and financial information that the genuine IRS interactive page does not require.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has found numerous separate Web sites in at least 20 different countries hosting variations on this scheme.

  • A bogus IRS letter and Form W-8BEN (Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding) asked non-residents to provide personal information such as account numbers, PINs, mother’s maiden name and passport number. The legitimate IRS Form W-8BEN, which is used by financial institutions to establish appropriate tax withholding for foreign individuals, does not ask for any of this information.

For more information on the various schemes, see the following:


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