70,000 Phishing Emails Sent Impersonating the IRS: How to Stay Protected

By on Nov 23, 2020

70,000 Phishing Emails Sent Impersonating the IRS: How to Stay Protected 

You wake up, log in to your Outlook, and find an email waiting in your inbox from support@irs.gov. Much to your confusion, the email claims that you have an outstanding account balance that you must pay immediately, or you will face legal charges.  

As it turns out, you’re not the only one to receive this message. According to Bleeping Computera phishing campaign was recently discovered impersonating the IRS, with 70,000 spoofed emails reaching users’ inboxes. Let’s unpack how this scheme works.  

Watch Out for Spoofed IRS Emails 

This scam targets Microsoft 365 users and threatens to press legal charges unless the recipient settles an outstanding account balance. And while some of the telltale signs of a phishing scam are grammar errors and misspellings throughout the body and address of the email, this threat is a little more sophisticated. To make this threat appear more credible, scammers use the email support@irs.gov, causing recipients to believe that the email actually did originate from the IRS. The email also appears to have no spelling errors at first glance, further increasing its legitimacy to an unsuspecting user.  

This scam is not foolproof, however. Upon further investigation, a recipient would see that the email’s header reveals the real sending domain: shoesbagsall.com. What’s more, the reply-to field redirects the replies to legal.cc@outlook.com instead of the IRS support mailing address. 

To further entice users into falling for this scheme, scammers threaten arrest or other legal charges and tell recipients that they will forward the emails to their employer to withhold the fake outstanding amounts from their wages. Additionally, the emails also instruct the targets to immediately reply with payment details to avoid having their credit affected.  

Send IRS Scammers Packing With These Security Tips  

 The best way to stay protected from phishing scams? Knowing how to spot them! Follow these security tips and best practices to prevent falling for fraudsters’ tricks:  

Go directly to the source 

Be skeptical of emails or text messages claiming to be from organizations with peculiar asks or information that seems too good to be true. Instead of clicking on a link within the email or text, it’s best to go straight to the organization’s website or contact customer service. 

Be cautious of emails asking you to act 

 If you receive an email or text asking you to download software or pay a certain amount of money, don’t click on anything within the message. Instead, go straight to the organization’s website. This will prevent you from downloading malicious content from phishing links or forking over money unnecessarily. 

Hover over links to see and verify the URL 

 If someone sends you a message with a link, hover over the link without actually clicking on it. This will allow you to see a link preview. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the message altogether. 

Change your password 

 If you accidentally respond to a phishing email with your personal data, change the passwords to any accounts you suspect may have been impacted. Make sure your new credentials are strong and unique from your other logins. For tips on how to create a more secure password, read our blog oncommon password habitsand how to safeguard your accounts.   

Consider using identity theft protection 

 A solution like McAfee Identify Theft Protection will help you to monitor your accounts and alert you of any suspicious activity.  

Stay Updated 

To stay updated on all things McAfee and on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

About the Author

Pravat Lall

Pravat Lall currently serves as VP of the Consumer Cloud Segment at McAfee. He is a seasoned product & technology leader with two decades of experience building products & solutions for Enterprise and Consumer markets. Pravat is passionate about engaging with the customer and accelerating innovation to solve real-world problems in cybersecurity. When not working, ...

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