IRS imposters and other scammers have been out there for years, using any angle they can to get your money. Economic Impact Payments and other COVID-19 funding from the federal government is incredibly tempting to those criminals. To them, those funds are a huge pot of opportunity to scoop up some cash with little extra effort – just a few tweaks to their existing methods, including phishing.I
“Phishing” is wordplay for “fishing” because the scammer uses bait to lure and reel in his prey. The scammer uses fraudulent emails to induce the recipient to share valuable personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Recently, taxpayers have reported being phished with emails purporting to help them get their Economic Impact Payment faster by registering on the link. Of course, the link is to the scammers, not the IRS!
So, how can you identify phishing and what if it happens to you?
- Check the sender’s email address.
The easiest way to check for phishing is to place your cursor over the sender’s name, revealing the sender’s e-mail address. An address that doesn’t look legitimate is probably a scam. For example, anything other than “irs.gov” for the IRS is suspect. Another clue is when the sender’s name in the email title doesn’t match the sender’s e-mail address.
- Look for spelling and grammar errors.
Whether scammers are just in a big hurry, or did poorly in school, phishing emails often contain spelling and grammatical mistakes. Legitimate communications from a charity or an employer are unlikely to be sent in such a sloppy and unprofessional manner. Stilted language or awkward syntax could also indicate a scam.
- Resist temptation to open or click on a link.
Do not open or reply to any suspicious email, no matter how enticing. Scam email titles could be telling you about all kinds of cash prizes, refunds, or other goodies to tempt you into opening a message that will unleash malicious code that infects your computer or mobile phone. And don’t even think about clicking on a link in a suspicious email!
- Report to authorities and delete.
Federal authorities and private groups are fighting against phishing scams. They need your help catching these criminals. You can report phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint and to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at [email protected]. Forward tax-related emails to the IRS at [email protected]. After reporting, delete the original email.
Don’t get phished! When you get an e-mail that looks suspicious or is from an unfamiliar sender, stop and check it out before deciding to open it. Don’t fall victim to a scammer phishing for your Economic Impact Payment.