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, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.

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