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IRS Penalty Phishing Scam

Outline
Email purporting to be from the IRS warns recipients that they have received a penalty for not submitting a tax return by the specified deadline but invites them to click a link to apply for an exemption.



Brief Analysis
The email is not from the IRS and the claim that recipients are subject to a tax penalty is untrue. The message is a phishing scam designed to trick recipients into divulging personal and financial information to cybercriminals via a fake IRS website.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.





Last updated: 9th February 2012
First published: 9th February 2012
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
Subject: Penalty for not filing tax return on time

Good day,

Please be informed, that you are subject to a penalty for not filing the income tax return by the deadline that is January 31, 2012.

Please pay attention, that IRS [Section 6038(b)(1)] determines a monetary penalty to the amount of $10,000 for each [Form 5471] that is sent on the expiry of the due date stipulated for filing the income tax return, or does not contain the exhaustive data determined in [Section 6038(a)].

The exemption from the penalty will be granted on condition that the taxpayer proves that the late filing was based on ample grounds.

You can find more information on our official website (p lease follow the link below)

Regards,
Internal Revenue Service United States
Department of the Treasury

IRS Penalty Phishing Scam




Detailed Analysis
This email, which purports to be from US tax agency the IRS, informs recipients that they have been given a penalty for failing to submit a tax return by a "deadline" specified as January 31, 2012. Recipients are warned that they could face a monetary penalty of $10,000 for the supposed late submission. Recipients are also advised that may receive an exemption from the penalty by proving that their late submission was based on "ample grounds". The message includes a link that people can follow to "find more information" about applying for the exemption.

However, the message is certainly not from the IRS. And the claim that recipients are subject to a penalty for late submissions is a lie designed to trick them into clicking the included link. Those who do swallow the bait and click the link will be taken to a bogus website designed to resemble a genuine IRS webpage. The bogus page will ask them to provide detailed personal and financial information, ostensibly as a means of proving their case and thereby receiving an exemption. All information supplied on the bogus website will be sent to criminals and may subsequently be used to commit financial fraud and identity theft.

The IRS has published information about such phishing scams on its website and notes:
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information
Criminals have repeatedly used scam emails that falsely claim to be from the IRS as a means of tricking people into divulging their private information. Similar scams have also targeted taxpayers in several other countries, including Australia, Canada, the UK, South Africa and India.

Be very cautious of clicking links or opening attachments in any email that claims to be from the tax agency in your country. Phishing scammers very regularly use such ruses to gain new victims.

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IRS - What is phishing?
IRS Refund Scam Email
Australian Tax Refund Scam Email
Department of Finance Phishing Scam
HM Revenue & Customs Tax Refund Phishing Scam
South African Revenue Service Tax Refund Phishing Scam
Indian Department of Revenue Tax Refund Scam

Last updated: 9th February 2012
First published: 9th February 2012
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer