CODY – Just as tax-filing season is kicking into full gear, taxpayers are being warned about an email scam that seeks to get their information so it can be used to file false returns. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said there has been a 400 percent surge in so-called phishing and malware complaints through this tax season so far. "While more attention has focused on the continuing IRS phone scams, we are deeply worried this increase in email schemes threatens more taxpayers," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "We continue to work cooperatively with our partners on this issue, and we have taken steps to strengthen our processing systems and fraud filters to watch for scam artists trying to use stolen information to file bogus tax returns." The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes ask taxpayers about a variety of topics related to tax refunds, filing status and personal information. Often links incorporated into the email direct taxpayers to websites meant to imitate an official-looking website like IRS.gov. Some taxpayers are also getting text messages or being contacted through social media. The sites may have malware that can infect a taxpayer's computer and allow criminals to access the user's files or track keystrokes to gain information. Tax returns are on peoples' minds. If you're one of the majority who gets a refund, you're eagerly awaiting the status of that refund, and scammers are playing off that," said Jennifer Jenkins, an IRS spokeswoman. Through Tuesday of last week, the IRS said it had received 1,389 complaints this year. That's more than the agency received for all of 2014 and is already more than half of the 2,748 complaints last year. Jenkins figures that the number of complaints represents just a small number of people who actually have received the emails. "It does take extra time and an extra step by reporting the scam and bringing it to the attention of the proper authorities," she said. "It may help the prosecution and getting the crooks from trying to take advantage of people and holding them accountable. The most recent email scam works as follows: taxpayers receive an official-looking email from what appears to be an official source, whether the IRS or someone in the tax industry. The underlying messages frequently ask taxpayers to update important information by clicking on a web link. The links may be masked to appear to go to official pages, but they can go to a scam page designed to look like the official page. Recent email examples the IRS has seen include subject lines and underlying text referencing: • Numerous variations about people's tax refund. • Update your filing details, which can include references to W-2. • Confirm your personal information. • Get my IP Pin. • Get my E-file Pin. • Order a transcript. • Complete your tax return information. Sheriff Scott Steward commented that while we have gotten reports of telephone scams purportedly representing the IRS,there have been no reported IRS email scams in Park County yet, but residents do need to remain vigilant. “Thieves are always looking for new and innovative ways to take advantage of honest, hard-working people and the first best line of defense is to be informed,” said Steward. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, texting or any social media. Taxpayers who get these messages should not respond to the email or click on the links. Instead, they should forward the scam emails to the IRS at email@example.com or contact the IRS Frauds Division at 800-366-4484. For more information, visit the IRS's “Report Phishing” web page. For more on all IRS scams see the "Dirty Dozen" list on IRS.gov.