Akshay got an e-mail to complete his return of income by authenticating his bank account details so that a refund of Rs 19,870 could be credited to him in a week’s time. He happily proceeded to the link and provided details of his bank account to process the refund. Within minutes, he got a confirmation message that the refund due to him would be processed within 7 days. Next day, he discussed the e-mail and shared his happiness with his tax consultant. The tax consultant asked him, “Did the notice mention your PAN and assessment year? How did you confirm the refund amount?”Akshay was unsure and shared the e-mail with him. The e-mail had come from firstname.lastname@example.org, which was a spoofed e-mail id. His consultant pointed out that the letter ‘e’ is missing in the e-mail id and informed him that that it indeed was a fake e-mail id. Akshay was in a state of shock.
This is not a one-off incident. There have been various cases reported across the country of taxpayers receiving such fake e-mails. These e-mails are more common during the tax return filing time as taxpayers await communication from the income tax department. If you are a tax payer who has received such an e-mail, be careful as it may be a phishing e-mail which would re-direct you to another website seeking your financial details like bank account number and other related details.
These kind of e-mails are camouflaged in a manner that one feels that it has come from an authentic e-mail id. The e-mail id would resemble the ids used by CPC/ income tax department. A wrong step could lead to compromising one’s personal details and the person eventually becomes a victim of online fraud. One could apply some basic checks before responding to such e-mails: Impromptu response should be avoided for electronic notices.
Always cross-check the authenticity of the e-mail id from which you have received the e-mail. The I-T department sends e-mail from the ids such as <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>,<email@example.com>. There are e-mails widely in circulation from spoofed e-mail ids which almost resemble the generic ids of the tax department. Do remember that the income tax department would not use private service providers’ e-mail ids like Gmail, Yahoo etc. Any e-mail from personal e-mail IDs and private service providers should be ignored. Before responding to the notices, please refer to details appearing on the income tax portal. Any demand against your PAN appears on income tax portal and the amount mentioned in a notice can be easily cross-checked.
Do corroborate the details mentioned in the notice with the return of income filed by you in the earlier years. Further, after e-filing, most of the services or requests can be raised online on the income tax portal itself. Rather than going through the link mentioned in the e-mail, you may independently open the authentic website, which is a user friendly platform, <https://www.incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in> and check all the pending actions against your PAN.
Being vigilant and being aware of current developments is the key to tackle such notices. This could save you from being a victim of new age e-frauds, so think before you respond.
The author is tax partner & India mobility leader, EY India. Inputs from Alfred Rodrigues, senior tax professional, EY. Views expressed are personal