Turns out you can be too eager to get your hands on a federal income tax refund – and the scammers know it.
Phony emails are popping up like spring flowers, often displaying the IRS logo and using subject lines such as “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.”
Potential victims are then asked to click a link and submit a form to claim their federal income tax refund.
The scammers, pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service, crafted a new scheme this spring that targets college students, professors and others who use an .edu email address.
The IRS has heard plenty about this new impersonation scam in recent weeks, and put out an alert Tuesday.
“The phishing emails appear to target university and college students from both public and private, profit and nonprofit institutions,” the alert said.
Maybe you filed a tax return back in February and wonder what happened to your refund cash? If you’re busy, you might not think twice when you get an email that looks like the IRS needs more information to process that refund.
“These crooks know that many people are eagerly awaiting their tax refund and may not look closer at who actually sent the email,” said Luis D. Garcia, an IRS spokesperson in Detroit.
“It’s not as if educators and students don’t already have enough to worry about but these criminals are relentless.”
If you click on that phony link, you’re going to be asked to verify or supply some information that you should never hand over to strangers.
Your Social Security number. Your driver’s license number. Your prior year’s adjusted gross income. Your electronic filing Identity Protection PIN that is used to file a tax return.
The kicker: An Identity Protection PIN, known as an IP PIN by tax professionals, is a six-digit number that is designed to stop crooks from filing a tax return using your Social Security number. The actual number for the IP PIN is known only to you and the IRS – unless, of course, you unwittingly hand it over when a phishing email shows up.
“This scam is particularly insidious because they’re asking for the ID theft protection PIN that some taxpayers have to protect themselves from this very scam,” Garcia said.
Don’t click on any links if you see this scam email. You can, according to the IRS, save the email using “save as” and then send that attachment to email@example.com, or forward the email as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IRS said taxpayers who believe they let important information slip can obtain an Identity Protection PIN through a voluntary opt-in program available at IRS.gov.
Detroit Free Press USA TODAY NETWORK