Fact Check

IRS Satisfaction Survey

E-mail from the IRS offers $80 to recipients who complete satisfaction surveys.

Published Aug 29, 2007


Phishing bait:   E-mail from the IRS offers $80 to recipients who complete "member satisfaction surveys."

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, August 2007]

Origins:   Most of us really like getting something for nothing, even if the "something" is of modest value. Businesses sometimes take advantage of this prediliction through means such as enclosing crisp $1 bills with mailed-out customer satisfaction or preference surveys in order to encourage a higher rate of participation.

So, a mailing that promised a whopping $80 for recipients who took a few minutes to fill out an on-line satisfaction survey would certainly find many takers, especially if it came from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) — an organization people typically associate with a strictly one-way transfer of funds (i.e., from our paychecks straight into their coffers). And that's the offer that many Internet users found plopping into their inboxes in August 2007:

Dear Customer,

You've been selected to take part in our quick and easy 8 question
survey. In return we will credit $80.00 to your account — Just for your time!

Please spare two minutes of your time and take part in our online survey so we
can improve our services. Don't miss this chance to change something.

But ... it all sounds too good to be true. Eighty dollars is a lot of money to offer people for filling out a simple eight-question survey asking them

to rate IRS customer service aspects such as courtesy, friendliness, and speed of service, especially when many of the respondents likely haven't had much significant interaction with the sponsoring agency. (If only 100,000 recipients responded, the IRS would be on the hook to pay out $8,000,000 for those responses, many of them likely coming from taxpayers who have had no contact with the IRS beyond simply mailing in a few forms every year.) And what's with that "Member Satisfaction Survey" legend on the supposed IRS web form displayed above? Taxpayers might be considered "customers" of the IRS (even though they don't have much choice in the matter), but "members" is a bit of stretch.

Alas, this is merely yet another phishing scheme designed to steal personal information, in this case credit card numbers provided by unwary respondents expecting "$80 rewards" to be posted to their accounts. As always, Internet users are cautioned to be aware that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers through e-mail and will never ask taxpayers for personal identification numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients of questionable e-mails that mimic IRS communications should forward them to phishing@irs.gov.

Last updated:   29 August 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Weisbaum, Herb.   "That E-Mail from the IRS? It's Not from the IRS."

    MSNBC.com.   27 August 2007.

    The [Vallejo] Times-Herald.   "IRS Warns Public About E-Mail Scam Offering Money for Taking Survey."

    29 August 2007.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.