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Beware of fake income tax e-mails

August 04, 2017 09:14 IST

Beware of fake income tax e-mails

If you receive an email claiming to be from the income tax department that there's an outstanding tax demand that you need to pay immediately, don't get alarmed.
Get cautious, advises Tinesh Bhasin.

In all probability, that email is from cyber criminals, trying to trick you into revealing your bank account details.

Experts say there has been an exponential rise in such emails in the past month.

"Cyber criminals are sending these emails as it's the time when most people file returns and tax is on their minds," says Amarpal Chadha, tax partner and India mobility leader, EY.

His clients, says Chadha, have also received emails stating there is a refund pending with the I-T department and the recipient can claim it instantly.

These emails provide a link the receiver needs to click to pay the outstanding tax demand or get the refund.

Once an individual clicks on it, s/he is redirected to a Web page that looks similar to the I-T department's Web site.

The individual is asked to select her/his bank and is redirected to another fake bank Web site.

At this stage, as the victim tries to log into her/his bank account, cyber criminals capture sensitive details.

At times, the hackers are already aware of the bank account the taxpayer uses.

When the individual clicks on the link provided in the email, s/he is taken directly to a fake Web site of the bank.

Recognising such fraudulent emails is not difficult.

The first thing to look at is the email address.

The email might seem to be originating from incometaxindia.gov.in but many service providers, such as Gmail, inform the user if it actually originated from that Web site.

You will see such emails will have 'via' right after the email address, and then the name of the server.

This means the email was sent via another mail service.

The I-T department sends emails from the following IDs:

The fraudulent emails in circulation at present are from donotreply@incometaxindiafiling.gov.in. But some technologies can help scammers to send emails that seem to be from the official addresses.

If you happen to click on the link provided in the email, which takes you to the fake Web site of the bank or I-T department, check the address.

It will not be the same as your bank's or the I-T department's.

Whenever you are transacting online, check if the address starts with HTTPS, rather than HTTP.

It should also have a closed lock sign. This means the Web site is secure and verified.

The best way to cut risk is to use licensed antivirus software.

There is also a possibility that the email has an attachment instead of a link.

Do not download attachments as these could be spyware that could get installed on your computer.

Tax experts say the I-T department does not send out tax demands or refunds in July or August.

"If you receive an email this month or the next, that itself should be alarming. The authorities also don't ask you to provide bank details separately. Taxpayers have to give those details when filing returns," says Suresh Surana, founder of RSM Astute Consulting Group.

Fraudulent emails usually ask you to pay the outstanding demand immediately or state that you need to claim a refund within the next seven days.

"Any communication from the I-T department provides at least 30 days to the taxpayer," says Chadha.

He suggests that a tax payer always consult her/his chartered accountant on receiving a communication from the department, before acting on it.

The receiver can also contact the I-T department at its contact numbers to check if the email s/he has received is authentic.

The best option is to log into your e-filing account, where you can quickly check your refund or tax demand status.

Tinesh Bhasin
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