The IRS has issued a warning about a phishing scam that targets college staff and students, particularly those with “.edu” extensions in their email. The scam uses phony IRS email templates to fool people into providing their personal information to claim a “tax refund.”
What to look for
The phony emails are branded with IRS logos and will include subject lines like “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.” Recipients are directed to click on a link and submit a form to claim their refund, but the link actually takes you to a phishing website that steals personal information like your social insurance number, gross income, or electronic IRS filing PIN. The IRS says the scam targets students and staff at both public and private schools, especially if you have a .edu email address.
“These crooks know that many people are eagerly awaiting their tax refund and may not look closer at who actually sent the email,” says Luis D. Garcia, an IRS spokesperson, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
There are three ways the IRS will contact you: a mailed letter, phone call, or personal visit (and even a phone call or personal visit would be preceded by a mailed letter), so be wary of emails or text messages, as they are almost certainly a scam. If you receive this scam email, don’t click on any link or logos, and report it to the IRS at email@example.com. If you want to know more about a pending refund, you can check on its status here.
Prevent theft with this IRS tool
If you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, the IRS recommends obtaining an Identity Protection PIN. An IP PIN is a secret six-digit number that’s included as part of your tax return, and it will prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns in your name (for more on how they work, check out this Lifehacker post). The anti-identity theft tool can be found here.