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IRS Warned of an Ongoing IRS-Impersonation Scam

 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has cautioned of ongoing phishing assaults impersonating the IRS and targeting educational establishments. The assaults focus around colleges staff and understudies with .edu email addresses and use tax refund payments as snare to lure clueless victims. The IRS said the phishing emails “appear to target university and college students from both public and private, profit and non-profit institutions.” 

It added that the suspect emails show the IRS logo and utilize different headlines, for example, "Tax Refund Payment" or "Recalculation of your tax refund payment." Clicking on a link takes victims to a phony site that requests individuals to submit a form to claim their refund. 

Abnormal Security researchers who detected these assaults in the wild, recently said that they circumvent Office 365 security and landed in the mailboxes of between 5,000 and 50,000 targets. "This impersonation is especially convincing as the attacker's landing page is identical to the IRS website including the popup alert that states' THIS US GOVERNMENT SYSTEM IS FOR AUTHORIZED USE ONLY', a statement that also appears on the legitimate IRS website," Abnormal Security revealed. 

 The phishing site requests taxpayers to provide their: 

• Social Security number
• First Name 
• Last Name 
• Date of Birth 
• Prior Year Annual Gross Income (AGI)
• Driver's License Number
• Current Address 
• City
• State/U.S. Territory 
• ZIP Code/Postal Code
• Electronic Filing PIN

Hank Schless, Senior Manager, Security Solutions at Lookout, says, "At this time of year, attackers will pose as members of the IRS to socially engineer employees into sharing sensitive tax-related information such as social security numbers or bank account information." 

Schless adds, “Security teams should be protecting employees across all endpoints to ensure they don’t fall victim to a phishing attack or download a malicious attachment that compromises the organization’s entire security posture. These scams are most effective on mobile devices, and attackers know that and are creating phishing campaigns like this to take advantage of the mobile interface that makes it hard to spot a malicious message. People access their work email on a smartphone or tablet just as much as they do on a computer. Any text, email, WhatsApp message, or communication that creates a time-sensitive situation should be a red flag. Employees should approach these messages with extreme caution or go straight to their IT and security teams to validate it.”

Email Scam Under the Name of IRS Try to gain EFIN of Tax Preparers

 

A lot of people are familiar with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scam letters about the tax season that are phishing for money. Now, in a virtual version of the fake IRS letter, a different kind of IRS scam aims for tax practitioners. 

The IRS has instructed tax practitioners to seek for the scam that tries to obtain the E-Filing Identification Number (EFIN) of a victim. Here, intruders use a fake email to attack the identity and customer information of tax preparers. Besides, attackers can impersonate the tax preparer and submit fake tax returns to receive refunds, if they have the data. 

The hoax started with a scam email, as per the IRS. The message claimed to have come from 'IRS tax e-filing.' This was an e-mail that went under the heading - ‘Verifying your EFIN before e-filing.’ The e-mail informs the tax preparer that certain documents are to be sent to check and get approved by the e-file staff. It then requests a copy of its EFIN and the license number of its driver. To make the situation more urgent, the email warns that, unless you comply, the IRS will disable e-filing access for the tax preparer. 

This season, many other major tax scams have also been identified by the IRS and other sources. For example, the IRS cautioned taxpayers in early February against threatening 'ghost' preparers of the tax return who are refusing to sign the returns they are making. Every return prepared needs the Preparer Tax Number and it should be signed by the tax preparers as well. The IRS says that the lack of signature may suggest the fraudulent activity of the tax preparer. They may be promising, depending on the size of those refunds, for example, big refunds charging huge fees and accordingly. 

Through investing in their e-mail security defense, organizations can protect themselves and their users against such an IRS scam. One way they could do this is to develop a safety education program and educate employees about some of the most common kinds of publicly available tax-based phishing emails and other scams. Organizations should continuously test their employees to keep their employees informed of this IRS scam and similar attacks. Threat intelligence should be used to keep up with the latest tax scams. 

Furthermore, the IRS advised the tax preparers to avoid undertaking any of the email steps. It's best to delete the email and not respond in any way.

Fraudsters Target US Tax Experts in Ongoing Phishing Campaign

 

Scammers are targeting US tax professionals in ongoing series of phishing attacks to steal Electronic Filling identification Numbers (EFINs). The International Revenue Service (IRS) has alerted US tax experts regarding the phishing campaign and suggested taking precautionary measures to avoid any loss.

The ongoing series of phishing attacks was started right before the US tax season with the target of stealing both users’ data and tax professionals’ identity. Scammers trick tax preparers by sending phishing emails and asking them to email their copies of “EFIN (e-file identification number) verification and Driver’s license” as a part of the fake verification process.

To make the verification process more authentic scammers threaten the potential victims to freeze their accounts they use to file tax documents online. Due to lack of knowledge or fear the victims hand over their information to the scammers. Once the scammers receive the information, they can file tax returns illegally for refunds by acting as tax professionals. 

IRS Tax E-Filling’ is used as the sender name by scammers in emails and ‘Verifying your EFIN before e-filing as a subject line followed by the content mentioned below:
“In order to help protect both you and your clients from unauthorized/fraudulent activities, the IRS requires that you verify all authorized e-file originators prior to transmitting returns through our system. That means we need your EFIN (e-file identification number) verification and Driver’s license before you e-file."

“Please have a current PDF copy or image of your EFIN acceptance letter (5880C Letter dated within the last 12 months) or a copy of your IRS EFIN Application Summary, found at your e-Services account at IRS.gov, and Front and Back of Driver’s License emailed to complete the verification process. If your EFIN is not verified by our system, your ability to e-file will be disabled until you provide documentation showing your credentials are in good standing to e-file with the IRS.”

Tax experts targeted by this ongoing phishing campaign are recommended not to respond to suspicious emails and to send the emails (as file attachments) to phishing@irs.gov. Tax professionals can also report to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for further analysis by the IRS Criminal Investigation division.

Fraudsters are Using Fake W-8BEN Forms for 2021 Tax Season

 

A huge number of US citizens get ready for the 2021 tax season, swarms of fraudsters and scammers are getting ready to rip off residents and non-residents alike. Fraudsters had a promising beginning foreseeing the buzz encompassing tax filing season, with phishing efforts impersonating the government agency as early as November 25, 2020, as indicated by Bitdefender Antispam Lab. Spikes in IRS-related phishing tricks scams were seen on January 19 and 21 when a large portion of the incoming agency-related correspondence was set apart as spam. 

Authorities say a huge number of individuals—from regular residents to sophisticated professionals—fall prey to IRS and other scams every year, losing millions of dollars in the process. As per a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, imposter scams cost Americans some $667 million in 2019—and those were only the cases reported to authorities. Numerous victims never document reports, regularly out of shame.

This warm-up was no happenstance, since the 2020 fiscal year rounded up, round about $2.3 billion were involved in tax fraud, as indicated by the agency’s annual report. Identity thieves utilized stolen Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII) to file early tax returns in the name of legitimate taxpayers, or utilized frivolous tactics to startle recipients into making prompt payments to stay away from arrest or deportation. 

Fraudsters are focusing on non-residents in the US utilizing a phony variant of the W-8BEN Form (Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting) to steal sensitive information. This rendition of the scam has been spotted more than 80,000 times since November 25, 2020, with more recognizable spikes expected to hit inboxes until April 15. Unlike traditional phishing, which expects recipients to get to a spoofed website or download a malicious attachment, scammers have set up a phony fax number where recipients should forward their data. The fake version will advise you to give specific data excluded from the genuine W-8BEN US tax exemption document, for example, your passport number, profession, mother's maiden name, bank account name and number and investments. 

Fraudsters have additionally reused older renditions of IRS impersonation scams by utilizing the Economic Impact Payments as a feature of The Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.