Don't get lured in by tax phishing

KAI RYSSDAL: It's the kind of news that makes your stomach do a little flip-flop: The IRS wants to talk to you.

But what if the tax man has good news to share? For instance, a refund might be coming your way! Be careful, 'cause the news just might be bogus.

Victor Omelczenko is a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles.

VICTOR OMELCZENKO: There are crooks out there that are trying to trick people into thinking that the IRS is contacting them for a tax refund, but the IRS does not send out e-mails unsolicited to folks.

So far, taxpayers have forwarded 7,000 scam e-mails to the IRS. Fake, but very tempting.

OMELCZENKO: Of course, if you get an e-mail that looks like it is appearing from the IRS and it says that you have a tax refund coming, you may feel tantalized to click on the links that are in there and then you'll go to a place that will ask you for personal identification information. This is big tax scam.

Big enough that the IRS has set up a special e-mail address, phishing@IRS.gov -- that's phishing with a "ph" -- to collect those bogus messages.

Oh and one more thing, what if the real IRS does want to contact you?

OMELCZENKO: When there is an issue with our tax account, you'll hear from the Internal Revenue Service the good old fashioned way. You will get a letter from us and that letter will have information for you and a specific number and a name of a person that you should be in contact with to resolve any kind of issue with the IRS.

Which still might make your stomach do that little flip-flop, but at least it's legit.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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