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Tax Professional Phishing Scam Alert

The IRS is reporting a 50% increase in preparer data breaches compared to last year’s tax filing season. The most common spear-phishing scams are as follows.

New Client Scam

This one is the most prevalent in 2022 because fraudsters are seeing great success with it. The purpose is to deliver malware in a subsequent contact. The email may appear very unremarkable with no attachments and no link “lure” and may even include a potential client’s telephone number. It may indicate that the sender was referred by an individual (even someone you may know). It could also indicate that the sender’s CPA retired and they are in search of a new preparer. When the target replies, they receive an email with a dropbox that purports to give access to the new client's tax documents, but the link is malicious.

  • If you recognize a referral name, call that individual to confirm.
  • If the email appears legitimate, and you want to be interested, ask for an in-person or virtual meeting.

Account Locked

This is the second most common scam of the season. The email may say, “Action Required: Your Account is on Hold.” It uses the IRS banner. It may take the receiver to a website that appears legitimate. You may think no practitioner would fall for this spear-phishing … think again. Watch for the typo squatting (as in a URL that has one or two letters wrong).

PTIN-themed Malware

This scam is still around. The email indicates “PTIN Suspended.” If the receiver opens the email, it may show a blurry image attachment as the bait. Do not click on it.

What Do You Do?

  • Stay vigilant in guarding yours and your clients’ data.
  • Interest in random electronic referrals is discouraged.
  • If you haven’t done so already, train your staff to identify fake emails.
  • Report any breaches to your tax software vendor and to your local IRS stakeholder liaison.

Latest spearphishing scams target tax professionals | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov)

Professional responsibilities in data security for tax professionals | Resources | AICPA

Publication 5199 (Rev. 8-2017) (irs.gov) Tax Preparer Guide to Identity Theft

Publication 5293 (5-2018) (irs.gov) Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself

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