It is that time of year again when we have to start warning clients about tax scams. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous thieves for whom nothing is off the table. They will go as far as to steal employer and worker information to enrich themselves.
Employers should be aware of what appear to be the two biggest tax scam threats for the coming season. They are susceptible to the first one while the second scam targets employees. In addition to being aware, employers should educate staff members accordingly.
The Tax Transciprt Scam
The first scam involves what are known as tax transcripts. Tax transcripts are documents outlining a company's tax activity over a specified amount of time. If your company was concerned about mistakes in previous filings, you could request a transcript from the IRS.
The transcript scam involves sending an e-mail with an alleged tax transcript attached. The e-mail may be designed to look like a reply to a message sent by someone in your company. It could contain a simple one-sentence statement implying that the attached transcript should be reviewed by a member of your team.
Know that the transcript is bogus. It contains a piece of malware known as Emotet. This malware has been around in numerous forms for quite a while. Once it infects a computer, it can infect other computers on the same network. Scammers use the malware to steal financial information.
The IRS is warning against this scam a bit more aggressively now that tax season is approaching. They are seeing more attempts at perpetrating the scam as the year draws to a close.
The Unpaid Tax Scam
The second scam is one aimed at employees rather than employers. It involves an e-mail accusing the recipient of owing past taxes. The e-mail demands that the recipient either follow a link to pay the unpaid taxes or submit bank information so that scammers can affect a withdrawal.
E-mails sent as part of this scam tend to be rather threatening. Language tends to insinuate that the message is from the IRS, and recipients are threatened with prosecution if they fail to follow the instructions contained in the e-mail.
Scammers are counting on fear and intimidation to get recipients to act. Once they gain access to a recipient's bank account or credit card, they can go even further to completely hijack the victim's identity. Please warn your employees about this scam.
Important Things to Note
There are some important things to note in relation to both these scams. First and foremost, the IRS never initiates contact with a taxpayer or company via e-mail. Just this one fact alone can protect both your company and your employees.
As a matter of course, do not trust any e-mail that purports to come from the IRS. If you haven't already been communicating with the IRS via e-mail, any unsolicited e-mail you receive is part of a scam. Delete it and report the incident to the authorities.
Next, note that the IRS never sends tax transcripts or other sensitive documents via e-mail. So even if you have been communicating with the IRS by e-mail all along, they will only send you a text transcript via snail mail. An e-mail attachment being passed off as a tax transcript is a bogus document.
Finally, individual taxpayers should never submit personal financial information online without first verifying the integrity of the associated links. In terms of taxes, online payments should only be facilitated through an IRS approved payment processor.
It is tax scam season again. Be aware, be careful, and be safe.