IRS sees uptick in email phishing schemes, issues warning

The IRS this week warned consumers to be on the lookout for "new, sophisticated email phishing scams" as the holidays and the 2019 tax filing season approach. The agency said there was a 60 percent increase in "bogus" email schemes seeking to steal money or tax data in 2018.

"Tax-related phishing scams reported to the IRS declined for the prior three years until a surge in 2018," the IRS said in a statement released Tuesday. "More than 2,000 tax-related scam incidents were reported to the IRS from January through October, compared to approximately 1,200 incidents in all of 2017."
The fraudulent campaigns are using email subject lines including "IRS Important Notice" or "IRS Taxpayer Notice." The agency's statement notes that these schemes can be spotted by misspellings and bad grammar; if such a message is received, taxpayers are encouraged to forward the email to

Further tips provided by the IRS that credit unions can provide to their members to ward off these phishing attempts include:

  • never open a link or attachment from an unknown or suspicious source;
  • the IRS never initiates random contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information;
  • phishing schemes only work if people open the message and click on the hyperlinks;
  • have in place security software to protect against malware and viruses found in phishing emails;
  • update and use strong passwords to protect online accounts; and
  • use multi-factor authentication if available.