The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers about a new phishing scheme that involves a scammer that impersonates the IRS and the FBI and then uses ransomware to take your computer data hostage. The scam comes in the form of an email and uses both the IRS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation emblems.
If you receive the email, it will try to make you select a “here” link that will supposedly download a fake FBI questionnaire. Instead, the link will download ransomware that will prevent you from being able to access any data stored on your device unless you pay money to the scammer.
It is important to remember that the IRS will never make first contact with you by threatening you via email or by phone. If you haven’t gotten anything from the IRS before this email, you should not open it but instead report it to the FBI.
The IRS, state tax agencies and tax industries are working together to help protect taxpayers. As part of the Security Summit, the tax agencies are conducting an awareness campaign called “Don’t Take the Bait”. The campaign includes warning tax professionals about the various types of phishing scams, including ransomware.
If you fall victim to the scam, do not pay the ransom. If you pay, it will only encourage the scammers more. In some cases, the scammers won’t provide the decryption key even after you’ve paid. If you experience either an attack or an attempt, you should immediately report it to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can forward the scam email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Always remember the IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, including ones involving bills or refunds. For more information, visit the Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts page.