The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued an urgent warning about a new scheme targeting taxpayers. The scheme, which IRS Commissioner John Koskinen called “a new twist on an old scheme” involves a bogus email which impersonates the IRS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as part of a ransomware scam to take computer data hostage.
The scam email uses the emblems of both the IRS and the FBI. The email urges recipients to click on a link to download a questionnaire allegedly from the FBI. The email implies that the questionnaire is required as part of changes in the law focused on tax compliance. The regs referenced in the email are bogus, and the link doesn’t click through to a questionnaire. Instead, the link downloads ransomware.
Ransomware is a kind of malware, short for “malicious software,” that prevents users from accessing data stored on their device unless they pay money to the scammers. Unlike spyware which attempts to gain access to your computer’s files to get information about your financial accounts, ransomware is typically a much more straightforward play for cash – the ransom.
If you receive this email or any similar emails, don’t click. Remember that you should never open an attachment or link from an unknown or suspicious source; it may infect your computer with malware or attempt to steal your information.
And if the email purports to come from the IRS or other federal agency? Remember that the IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. If you get an email asking you to visit a website or answer personal questions, do not reply and do not click on any links in the email.