From robo-calls to spam: The tax scam’s the same

For the last two filing seasons, I’ve written about robo-calls I’ve received from phishers who impersonate IRS revenue officers. Last week, I spotted a new, disturbing email scam that landed in my spam folder.

Since the IRS opened up the 2017 filing season on Monday, Jan 29, this is something you and your employees should be aware of.

Your tax documents are ready

I don’t consent to having any tax documents sent to me electronically. That’s me. So I knew immediately I was looking at a very clever scam when I saw an email with the subject line “Your tax documents are ready.” This obviously is meant to trick anyone who doesn’t know a lot about electronic delivery of W-2s.

The timing was exquisite. After all, taxpayers are anxiously awaiting their W-2s and 1099s, so they can provide them to their accountants. And the quicker they get through their accountant’s door, the quicker their tax refund will come.

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Nevertheless, I understand that lots of employees live on their smartphones these days and electronic delivery of W-2s is just a natural extension of that.

If you deliver W-2s to employees electronically through a secure website (and not through email, which we talked about last week), and you alert them to the availability of their forms via email, the subject line of your email must read: “IMPORTANT TAX RETURN DOCUMENT AVAILABLE.” With the capital letters! You might be able to fudge a little by substituting the word INFORMATION for DOCUMENT. But that’s about it.

Tell employees who receive the “Your tax documents are ready” email that it’s a scam and that they shouldn’t click on any links. If their accountants use that subject line on emails to communicate to them that their 1040s are, in fact, ready to be filed, tell employees to look closely at the sender’s email address. That’s another dead giveaway that they’re being phished. If the email isn’t their accountant, it’s spam, plain and simple.