Tax return scammers usually strike early in the year, when they can turn the personal information of victims into fraudulent tax refund claims. But members of Akamai’s threat research team found a recent surge in “off-season” phishing attacks masquerading as notices from the Internal Revenue Service, targeting over 100,000 individuals. The attackers used at least 289 different domains hosting fake IRS websites—the majority of them legitimate sites that had been compromised. This wave of attacks came as the October 15 deadline for people who had filed for extensions approached.
According to a post by Akamai’s Or Katz, the phishing campaigns kicked off in the second half of August, with the majority of victims targeted between August 22 and September 5. But the campaigns continued to be launched into early October. Each of the fake websites used visually identical HTML pages, but used randomly generated style tags and other content in an attempt to throw off signature detection by security software.