IRS warns of new text scam targeting hundreds of thousands nationwide

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned Wednesday of a new phishing scam targeting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers across the country.

According to the IRS, scammers were targeting people via text messages, containing links to fake offers like COVID relief, tax credits or help setting up an IRS online account.

“This is phishing on an industrial scale so thousands of people can be at risk of receiving these scam messages,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “In recent months, the IRS has reported multiple large-scale smishing campaigns that have delivered thousands – and even hundreds of thousands – of IRS-themed messages in hours or a few days, far exceeding previous levels of activity.”

These scam texts often ask people to click on a link that goes to phishing websites that try to collect personal information, or download malware onto people’s phones.

The IRS reiterated that it does not send emails or text messages asking for personal or financial information or account numbers, and people should recognize any requests like those as “red flags.”

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IRS agents reported a big increase in reports of “smishing” (fraudulent domains tied to several MMS/SMS/text) scams asking for personal and financial information from taxpayers in the fall of 2020.

Agents say they work around the clock to shut down online fraud, but criminals are always evolving in the ways they use technology to target vulnerable taxpayers. They said in a recent fraud campaign, scammers only used about three dozen stolen or fake email addresses to create over 1,000 bogus domains.

“Particularly in these cases, the best offense is a good defense,” said Rettig. “Taxpayers and tax pros need to remain constantly vigilant with suspicious IRS-related emails and text messages. And if you get one, sending the IRS important details from the text can help us disrupt the scams and protect others.”

Taxpayers are encouraged to report any phishing attempts from scammers posing as the IRS to using the following steps:

  • Copy and paste (press and hold the message on your phone, and select the “copy” option that appears) the caller ID number (or email address)
  • If possible, include the exact date, time, time zone and telephone number that received the message, and the phone number the message came from

It is also advised that people block the number of any scammer, delete the message after reporting it, and never click on an unknown link you aren’t expecting.

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