Technology

Get an email with IRS and FBI emblems? It’s likely a scam to take your data hostage

FILE -- Workers enter the IRS building on Dec. 11, 2014, in Washington, D.C. The IRS has been making a full-court press this summer to alert tax professionals that cyber crooks are out to steal taxpayer information from their digital files.
FILE -- Workers enter the IRS building on Dec. 11, 2014, in Washington, D.C. The IRS has been making a full-court press this summer to alert tax professionals that cyber crooks are out to steal taxpayer information from their digital files. TNS

The Internal Revenue Service has issued an urgent warning about a new phishing scheme that impersonates the IRS and the FBI as part of a ransomware scam to take computer data hostage.

The scam email displays the emblems of both the IRS and FBI in an attempt to entice users to select a link to download a fake FBI questionnaire.

Instead, the link downloads ransomware that prevents users from accessing data stored on their devices unless they pay money to the scammers.

“This is a new twist on an old scheme,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement accompanying the public warning. “People should stay vigilant against email scams that try to impersonate the IRS and other agencies that try to lure you into clicking a link or opening an attachment. People with a tax issue won’t get their first contact from the IRS with a threatening email or phone call."

The IRS and FBI are advising online victims to not pay a ransom. Instead, officials said victims should report any ransomware attempt or attack to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov. IRS-themed email scams should be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS noted that it does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds.

More information on this and other tax scams can be found on the “Scams” link on the homepage of IRS.gov.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover

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