Creative Alternatives to the Courtroom

An Email From the IRS? Don't Believe It

Scam artists have developed a new tactic in cheating taxpayers out of their hard-earned money.

Transcript fraud is when taxpayers are lured into opening an attachment that is supposed to be their tax transcript. In fact, the attachment contains malware that will intercept all of your outgoing data, with the intent of capturing account numbers. From there, the thieves withdraw the money and the taxpayer is left without any recourse.

Tax transcripts are hugely important in divorce cases, which is why the temptation to open the Trojan file is so great.

  • Forensic accountants use them to figure out the parties’ actual incomes.

  • Lenders use transcripts when making a decision about a mortgage.

From first-hand experience, I can attest to the fact that tax transcripts can also be used to steal your identity. It happened to me years ago, and now the IRS imposes extra security procedures on my account—and there are a host of things I can no longer do—indefinitely.

The particular malware being used has been attacking financial institutions for years. The core code for malware programs is often available for people to customize, and it appears that is what happened here. The virus is called Emotet and you can find the Wikipedia article here.   

Avoiding Emotet and other malware programs is easy if you remember one vital thing: The IRS will never email you.