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Unreported Income Phishing Scam

Summary:
Email purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service claims that a possible fraud attempt involving unreported income has been discovered by the tax agency and urges the recipient to click a link to review his or her tax statement (Full commentary below).



Status:
Email is not from the IRS - Scam designed to install malware

Example:(Received, September 2009)
Subject: Notice of Underreported Income Taxpayer ID: [name removed]-00000174073547US

Tax Type: INCOME TAX

Issue: Unreported/Underreported Income (Fraud Application)

Please review your tax statement on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website (click on the link below): review tax statement for taxpayer id:

[name removed]-00000174073547US

Internal Revenue Service [link Removed]



Commentary:
This email, which purports to be from US tax agency, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), supposedly concerns an issue involving unreported - or "underreported" - income and implies that the recipient is being reviewed by the tax agency for fraud. It instructs the recipient to follow a link in the message in order to review a tax statement.

©iStockphoto.com/Hans-Joachim Roy

Unreported Income Tax Scam
Beware of phishing scam emails that claim that the IRS has discovered unreported income related to your tax statement
However, the message is not from the IRS and the supposed issue of unreported income is an invention by Internet criminals designed to trick taxpayers into downloading a malicious program that can allow hackers access to the target computer. Recipients who click on the link included in the email may inadvertently download malware to their computer.

The scammers have attempted to make this fraudulent email seem more believable by including what, at first glance, appears to be an ID code specific to the recipient. This trick is achieved by automatically adding part of the recipient's email address to the front of a row of numbers and letters. Given that people often use their real name as part of their email addresses, this ruse may quite effectively create the illusion that the scam email is specifically targeted at the recipient. The illusion is further heightened by the use of a spoofed "from" address that looks like a genuine IRS email address.

Supposed issues involving income tax are often used as bait by phishing scammers. In other variations, the scam emails claim that the recipient can gain access to an unexpected tax refund by filling in an online form that asks for information such as credit card and social security numbers. These emails are not from legitimate tax agencies and any information provided can be harvested by scammers and used for fraud and identity theft. Such scams have targeted taxpayers in various countries, including the US, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Internet users should be very wary of any email that claims to be from their country's tax agency and asks them to click a link or open an attachment in order to gain more information on an issue or provide personal information. Legitimate tax agencies do not use such methods to request information from taxpayers. The IRS has published information on its website warning taxpayers about such scams and notes:
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail.

The IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail.
The IRS does not send e-mail requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.
If you receive an email that purports to be from your tax agency, do not click on any links that the message may contain. Do not open any attachments that may come with the email. Do not reply to the message or provide any information to the senders.

For more information about phishing scams, see:
Phishing Scams - Anti-Phishing Information

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References:
IRS scam making rounds yet another Cutwail creation
How to Report and Identify Phishing, E-mail Scams and Bogus IRS Web Sites

Last updated: 30th September 2009
First published: 10th September 2009

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen