Tax professionals are being warned to be on the lookout for a scam using a fake insurance tax form in an effort to steal annuity and life insurance accounts.
The Internal Revenue Service says this is a complex scheme that combines several tactics. Tax professionals and taxpayers have both been targets.
There may be variations, but here’s how one scam works: The cybercriminal, impersonating a legitimate cloud-based storage provider, entices a tax professional with a phishing email. The tax professional, thinking they are interacting with the real cloud-based storage provider, provides their email credentials including username and password.
With access to the tax professional’s account, the cybercriminal steals client email addresses. The cybercriminal then impersonates the tax professional and sends emails to their clients, attaching a fake IRS insurance form and requesting that the form be completed and returned.
The cybercriminal receives replies by fax or by an email address very similar to the tax professional’s email – using a different email service provider or a slight variation to the tax pro’s real address.
The subject line varies but may be “urgent information” or something similar.
One red flag is that the text of the email is badly worded:
“Dear Life Insurance Policy Owner,
Kindly fill the form attached for your Life insurance or Annuity contract details and fax back to us for processing in order to avoid multiple (sic) tax bill (sic).”
The cybercriminal, using data from the completed form, then impersonates the client and contacts the individual’s insurance company, attempting to obtain a loan or make a withdrawal from those accounts.
The IRS reminds tax pros to steer clear of phishing emails, “free” offers and other scammer tricks. Tax professionals who experience a data breach should contact the IRS through their Stakeholder Liaison. Check out the IRS Data Theft Information for Tax Professionals for more information.