If you get a text message from the IRS about a refund that you are owed, don’t respond. It’s a scam.
Carefull has seen this text message scam circulating recently. It’s just one of the many fake messages scammers send in an attempt to take advantage of taxpayers. If you click on the link in this or any other text message that supposedly is from the IRS, you’ll put your personal information at risk.
Here’s how to spot and avoid the latest IRS text scam and similar scams.
How the latest IRS text scam works
The text scam spotted by Carefull makes it appear as though the IRS is alerting recipients to a tax refund they have received. It looks official because it includes an ID number followed by “IRS-GOV,” “Form W-4” and the dollar amount of the refund. It also includes a PDF file for recipients to download.
However, there are several red flags that the message is a scam. For starters, the IRS does not contact taxpayers by text message. It sends letters by mail through the U.S. Postal Service.
Another red flag: Form W-4 isn’t related to tax refunds. It’s the form filed by employees with employers for their tax withholding.
Plus, the message is sent by an email address with the domain orksdigital.com. This domain is flagged as a deceptive site, with the message: “Attackers on orksdigital.com may trick you into doing something dangerous like installing software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers, or credit cards).”
Clicking on the PDF file in the message will likely infect your device with a virus.
How to avoid IRS text scams
Taking the following steps will help you avoid falling for IRS text message scams.
Remember that the IRS won’t text you. The IRS and other government agencies won’t call out of the blue, email you or send you a direct message through social media sites. The IRS initiates contact with taxpayers with letters sent in the mail through the U.S. Postal Service.
Never click on links in text messages. If the message is sent by a scammer, the link could include malware or direct you to a fake website that could be used to steal your personal or account information. If there is a phone number in a message, do not call it. Reach out directly to any agency that supposedly is trying to contact you by looking up its phone number.
Pay attention to the sender. Often, you can spot a text scam by the sender. The message itself might say “IRS,” but the text likely originated from a domain not associated with the IRS or any government agency. For example, if the message is being sent from a gmail, hotmail or any account that’s different from the agency or company that supposedly is sending it, it’s a scam.
Check the status of refunds at IRS.gov. Again, don’t click on links in messages to check the status of a refund. Use the Where’s My Refund? tool at IRS.gov.
Report fake IRS text messages. If you receive a message that appears to be a scam, forward it to the IRS at 202-552-1226. Your phone service provider also likely includes the option within text messages to report them as junk and delete them. Use this option.