The Internal Revenue Service has been getting reports from across the country of a new scam in which individuals have been receiving fake tax forms by email that indicate they underreported their income as related to Affordable Care Act coverage in 2014.
The forms are coming as email attachments containing what are called CP2000 notices, which are generally sent to taxpayers when income reported from a third-party source, such as an employer, doesn’t match what the taxpayer reports on his return. These fakes are dated for the 2015 tax year. The IRS is warning consumers and tax professionals to not click or open the attachments.
“This just shows how tenacious these crooks are,” said Luis Garcia, a spokesman for the IRS in Detroit. “They keep adapting and morphing to find new ways to trick you out of your money.”
A CP2000 notice is typically mailed to taxpayers through regular mail, but these new scammers are sending the notice via email. They’re also demanding that taxpayers mail checks made out to “IRS,” which is something you should absolutely never do.
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When you pay your federal tax bill, you make the check out to “United States Treasury.”
If you make the check payable to the IRS, you’re making it easy for crooks to tinker with the I, R and S letters and make it look like the check was legitimately written for them. Savvy scammers know how to use a little creative penmanship to transform “IRS” into “I.R. Smedley,” for example, or turn the I into an M so that Mrs. Martin, aka Mrs. Fraudster, can then go cash your tax check.
Consumers are being asked to forward examples of this to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete the emails from their accounts. The IRS also has a support website called Reporting Phishing and Online Scams.
Some of the telltale signs of this scam:
▪ The IRS does not send CP2000 notices – or initiate contact with taxpayers – by email or social media platforms.
▪ This fake email looks like it’s been issued out of an Austin, Texas, address.
To protect yourself, take time with any notice or email or phone call that you think is coming from the IRS. Too many fraudsters use consumers’ fear of taxes to talk unsuspecting, honest citizens out of quick cash.
Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press.