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The Federal Tax ID or EIN 'Phishing' Scam

Does the IRS Really Email Taxpayers?

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Could a national ID card help prevent identity theft?

Could a national ID card help prevent identity theft?

Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Updated December 01, 2011

A series of email messages posing as official communications from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are, in fact, dangerous identity theft or "phishing" scams attempting to steal the victims' personal and financial information by "helping" them apply for an IRS Employer Identification Number, or EIN.

Also See: Do You Need a Federal Tax ID Number (EIN)?

Among the most popular "tools" of identity thieves are emails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Face it; anything that says it is from the IRS gets your attention, which is the first goal of email scammers. The following article describes a typical email "phishing" scam that attempts to steal your vital personal information by purporting to be from the IRS, and provides information on how the IRS really communicates with taxpayers.

An EIN Scam Email

Typical of this phishing scam is this unsolicited email from "somebody@IRS.gov," with the subject "Rejected Federal Tax payment." Attention grabbing, isn't it. The body of the email reads as follows:
Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury

Your federal Tax payment (ID: 001449986316), recently initiated from your bank account was canceled by the your Bank.

Canceled Tax transaction
Tax Transaction ID: 001449986316
Reason for rejection: See details in the report below
tax_report_001449986316.pdf (Warning! This actually links to a website, not a .pdf file - DO NOT CLICK ON IT)

Federal Tax Transaction Report:
(Link to scam web site - DO NOT CLICK ON IT)

No need to file a Form SS-4. We ask you the questions and you give us the answers. After all validations are done you will get your EIN immediately upon completion. You can then download, save, and print your EIN confirmation notice. This EIN is your permanent number and can be used immediately for most of your business needs, including opening a bank account, applying for business licenses, and filing a tax return by mail. However, no matter how you apply (phone, fax, mail, or online), it will take up to two weeks before your EIN becomes part of the IRS' permanent records. You must wait until this occurs before you can file an electronic return, make an electronic payment, or pass an IRS Taxpayer Identification Number matching program. Due to a high volume of requests for EINs, the IRS will begin limiting the number of EINs assigned per day to a responsible party. Effective April 11, 2011, a responsible party will be limited to five (5) EINs in one business day. This limit is in effect whether you apply online, by phone, fax or mail.

Internal Revenue Service,
Metro Plex 1,
8401 Corporate Drive, Suite 300,
Landover, MD 20785
Facts About the EIN

The letter attempts to convince the victim that they must obtain an IRS Employer Identification Number, or EIN, in order to resolve the non-existent "Rejected Federal Tax payment." In reality, EINs are needed only by businesses. Most individual taxpayers are known to the IRS by their Social Security Number (SSN). Individuals may also obtain a Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN) from the Social Security Administration, which can be used in place of a Social Security Number. In addition, certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents that cannot get a Social Security Number can get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS.

Also See: How to Get a Federal EIN Number

The Danger of the Email

The section of the scam email that begins, "No need to file a Form SS-4…" is copied directly from the IRS website. Do not click on any website, email or .pdf file links included in the email. The danger of the email is that clicking on any of the links provided by the scammer takes the victim to a website where they will, indeed be asked to provide some of the information required to complete the actual IRS Form SS-4, Application for an Employer Identification Number. However, the answers; such as name, address, Social Security Number and other vital personal and financial information, will be collected by the identity thief, NOT by the IRS. In addition, programs on the scammer's websites may attempt to install "malware" on the victim's computer.

How the IRS Contacts Taxpayers

The IRS never sends unsolicited email messages to taxpayers. The IRS never initiates contact with a taxpayer through email, and under no circumstances will the IRS request Social Security Numbers, credit card information or pin numbers through email.

How to Report IRS Email Scams

If you get an unsolicited suspicious email claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), the IRS recommends you DO NOT click on any links or attempt to open any attachments and forward the email, as-is to the IRS at: phishing@irs.gov, then delete the original email.

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