IRS Warns of Rise in Text Message Scams: Why

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned taxpayers about a recent increase in text message scams to steal personal and financial information.

According to the agency, so far in 2022, it has identified and reported thousands of fraudulent domains linked to multiple MMS/SMS/text scams (known as smishing) targeting taxpayers. In recent months, and especially in recent weeks, IRS-themed smishing has increased exponentially.

The IRS notes that smishing campaigns target cell phone users, and the scam messages often appear to come from the IRS, offering lures such as fake Covid relief, tax credits, or help setting up an IRS online account.

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

The fraudulent text messages often ask taxpayers to click on a link where phishing websites will attempt to collect their information or potentially send malicious code to their phones.

The IRS reminds us that it does not send emails or text messages requesting personal or financial information or account numbers, so all such messages should be red flags for taxpayers.

With October’s Cyber Security Awareness Month approaching, the IRS and Security Summit partners in the states and the nation’s tax community remind individuals and the tax professional community to be on the lookout for phishing scams and other schemes that could put sensitive tax data at risk.

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Beginning in the fall of 2020, the IRS saw an increase in reports of smishing scams requesting personal and financial information from taxpayers. These smishing campaigns continued during the pandemic. The IRS has taken numerous steps to warn people about this ongoing threat, including releasing a video on how to avoid IRS text message scams.

The IRS asks taxpayers to continue to report these scams through [email protected]: “Your report allows the IRS to report these scams to the appropriate service providers for action, protecting other taxpayers who may receive a variant of the same scam.”

The following process will help capture important details for reporting smishing to the IRS:

  • Create a new email [email protected]
  • Copy the caller ID number (or email address).
  • Paste the number (or email address) into the email.
  • Press and hold the text message/SMS and select “copy.”
  • Paste the message into the email.
  • If possible, include the exact date, time, time zone, and phone number that received the message.
  • Send the email to [email protected]