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Comptroller Franchot Warns Taxpayers of New Phishing Scheme Impersonating IRS and FBI

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (August 29, 2017) — Comptroller Peter Franchot is warning taxpayers to avoid a new phishing scheme that impersonates the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI as part of a ransomware scam to take computer data hostage.

The IRS says the scam email uses emblems of both and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It tries to entice users to select a "here" link to download a fake FBI questionnaire. Instead, the link downloads a certain type of malware called ransomeware that prevents users from accessing data stored on their device unless they pay money to the scammers.

"If you receive an email like this, don't reply, download or respond in anyway. These tax scammers are after your hard earned money and personal financial information," Comptroller Peter Franchot said. "My agency stands ready to help any Maryland taxpayer who gets an email like this and we remain vigilant in our united goal to protect citizens from these con artists."

The IRS, state tax agencies and tax industries - working in partnership as the Security Summit - are conducting an awareness campaign called Don't Take the Bait that includes warning tax professionals about the various types of phishing scams, including ransomware.

  • Victims should not pay a ransom. Paying it further encourages the criminals, and frequently the scammers won't provide the decryption key even after a ransom is paid.
  • Victims should immediately report any ransomware attempt or attack to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.IC3.gov. Forward any IRS-themed scams to phishing@irs.gov.

 The Comptroller's Office and the IRS do not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. If you are a tax professional and registered e-services user who disclosed any credential information, contact the IRS e-Services Help Desk to reset your e-service password.

The Comptroller's Office also advises taxpayers not to reply to phone calls or emails asking for confidential information, most especially Social Security numbers, birth dates, salary information or home addresses. To report a problem, Maryland taxpayers may call 1-800-MD-TAXES or send an email to mdcomptoller@comp.state.md.us.

MEDIA CONTACT: Joe Shapiro, 410-260-7438 (office), 443-871-2244 (cell)

Alan Brody, 410-260-6346 (office), 443-924-1473 (cell)