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IRS Criminal Probe Scam Emails

In late May 2007, scam emails purporting to be from America's Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began hitting inboxes. The emails are designed to fool recipients into installing a trojan onto their computers either by opening an attachment that comes with the email or by clicking a link that points to a malicious website.

One version of the scam email claims that the recipient is under investigation for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Tax Board. Another claims that a serious complaint has been lodged against the recipient. A news release issued by the IRS on May 31st 2007, states in part:
The Internal Revenue Service today alerted taxpayers to the latest versions of an e-mail scam intended to fool people into believing they are under investigation by the agency’s Criminal Investigation division.

The e-mail purporting to be from IRS Criminal Investigation falsely states that the person is under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Tax Board. The e-mail seeks to entice people to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more information about the complaint against them. The IRS warned people that the e-mail link and attachment is a Trojan Horse that can take over the person’s computer hard drive and allow someone to have remote access to the computer.

The IRS urged people not to click the link in the e-mail or open the attachment. Similar e-mail variations suggest a customer has filed a complaint against a company and the IRS can act as an arbitrator. The latest versions appear aimed at business taxpayers as well as individual taxpayers.

The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal and financial information. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
The IRS, and other tax agencies have often been targeted in the past. Similar scam or worm emails have claimed to be from law enforcement agencies such as the FBI.

By sending messages claiming that people are under criminal investigation, the scammers attempt to panic potential victims into opening attachments or clicking links without due caution. If people believe that they are being unfairly accused of misconduct or criminal activities they will have a natural desires to find out more about the issue as soon as possible.

It is highly improbable that any tax or law enforcement agencies would contact citizens on tax or legal issues via unsolicited email. Such emails should be treated with the utmost caution. If you receive such an email, never open any attachments that come with the message or click on any included links.



References:
IRS Warns Taxpayers of New E-mail Scams
IRS Refund Scam Email
HM Revenue & Customs Tax Refund Phishing Scam
FBI Virus Emails - Sober Worm

Last updated: 2nd June 2007
First published: 2nd June 2007

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen