In the more sophisticated attempts, malware (crimeware) is dropped on a system that logs keystrokes, gathering even more personal information, without the computer owner's knowledge, or consent.
The phishermen have been spoofing the IRS so frequently, the IRS set up a dedicated e-mail address to report activity. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org (follow the instructions).
The most recent version is a spam e-mail intended to scare a person into thinking they are being investigated. Here is what the IRS site is reporting:
The e-mail purporting to be from IRS Criminal Investigation falsely states that the person is under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Tax Board. The e-mail seeks to entice people to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more information about the complaint against them. The IRS warned people that the e-mail link and attachment is a Trojan Horse that can take over the person’s computer hard drive and allow someone to have remote access to the computer.
Trojan horses are often a gateway to install malware -- sometimes referred to as crimeware -- which often includes keylogging software. The bottom line is that once installed on a computer, they have the ability to steal personal and financial details, from afar, without any additional assistance from you.
All the terms out there get confusing to non-technical people, there are some now saying, we should group some of the terms together and call it "grayware?" Another term to group some of this terminology together is "badware."
Similar technology is used for advertising and marketing purposes by legitimate businesses, also. This is often referred to as spyware and adware. The one thing they all have in common is that they are often a nuisance.
The key is to NOT even open the spam e-mails enticing you to click on their links. The best practice is to delete them. These e-mails are generated by the millions, perhaps billions by now, using automated software and botnets (other people's computers that have been taken over).
Spam filters designed to stop them from getting in your inbox, seem like they are getting less effective, recently.
Botnet owners are known to rent out their networks to other criminals for this purpose.
Sadly enough, the IRS name has been being spoofed a lot lately. Here is the extent of it:
Since the establishment of the mail box last year, the IRS has received more than 17,700 e-mails from taxpayers reporting more than 240 separate phishing incidents. To date, investigations by TIGTA have identified host sites in at least 27 different countries, as well as in the United States.
The phishermen often impersonate financial institutions, eBay, PayPal, or government agencies; such as the FBI and Interpol.
The latest alert from the IRS can be seen, here.