Don’t respond to any email received by you in the last few days from the Income Tax (I-T) department asking you to share details of your bank account, credit card, PIN, etc. so that the department can transfer your tax refund due to you.
At a time when people are busy furnishing their investment details to the tax department to get exemptions, a large number of taxpayers have received fake emails masquerading as the one from the I-T department bearing its official logo, assuring refunds. To avail the sum, one shall have to furnish mobile phone number and bank details.
The emails mention that refunds are due to these taxpayers and all the amount are above Rs 20,000, which is anyway tempting. The letters attached with the mails are so nearly perfect that it’s almost difficult to identify it as a fake one.
Delhi-based Chartered Accountant Abhishek Aneja, received such a mail from “Income Tax Department” offering him a refund of Rs 25,646.44.
“At the first go it’s very difficult to identify it as an act of fraud, especially for a common man. Since, I deal with Income Tax as a practitioner, it wasn’t difficult for me to differentiate it from a genuine one from the department. But, it’s dangerous, as this email asked for mobile verification, the fraudster may take the mobile number and then ask the person to put his bank account details including password to hack the account,” Aneja told Firstpost.
The glaring difference between a real email ID and a fake one is that I-T mails are generated from the domain of ‘incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in’, whereas these mails sent to various people were generated from fictitious ones like: ‘email@example.com’, ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, etc.
“This type of fraud comes under phishing. Whenever the I-T department gets to know about any such fake attempts to dupe taxpayers, it takes action. If any email is sent through fake IDs, the department takes help of its IT (cyber) cell—first to block it and then initiate action by tracking roots from where such mails have been generated. Even the IT department in its website has posted precautions and advisory related to fake emails, fraudulent practices in the name of Income Tax to dupe taxpayers. Earlier, there had been instances, where taxpayers lost their money by responding to such lures,” a senior I-T official told Firstpost, seeking anonymity.
Phishing is the process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. It is typically carried out by e-mail or instant messaging and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one, like it has happened in the case of I-T department.
“The Income Tax department doesn’t ask for personal financial details through email. There is an advisory on Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) website regarding this. We’re forwarding the information given by you to the department concerned for necessary action,” Shefali Shah, principal commissioner (Income Tax) & spokesperson, CBDT told this correspondent.
This is not the first time that taxpayers have received fake emails. In September 2015, a fake letter with official logo and designation was circulated and posted on Facebook mentioning that “the date of filing of audit report and the return of income for the Assessment Year 2015-16 has been extended from 30 September to 15 October”. In fact, it was not and the last date was as usual 30 September.
Firstpost was the first to report on it and the CBDT subsequently issued a cautionary note to the taxpayers and tax practitioners.
“It took me some time to realise that it was a fake email and I got it confirmed from my tax consultant. Any common man may get duped. The I-T department should mention the warning in bold letters on the home page of its website, rather than at the bottom. Unless, one accesses the ‘Disclaimer’, it’s not possible to read the advisory. More public awareness through newspapers and TV channels should be created to save people from fraud communications,” said Noida-based Rajesh Tiwari, who received a refund claim of Rs 24,136.20 through email.
So, next time you receive any such fake mails or find a website you think is pretending to be that of the Income Tax Department, forward the e-mail or website URL to email@example.com.