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Senators question IRS readiness for potential ChatGPT generated tax scams

Written on May 19, 2023

A bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee members is raising concerns with the IRS over potential use of artificial intelligence (AI) to generate what they say could be persuasive, tailored messages to steal personal financial information. 

In a May 1 letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel, the lawmakers urged the IRS to prepare for and counter AI-generated tax scams by educating taxpayers and tax professionals about the existence of such tax scams and what to watch out for. The Senators also asked the IRS whether it expects these AI-generated tax scams to become more common and how these scams might evolve over time. 

“According to recent reporting, one cybersecurity expert demonstrated how ChatGPT can be used to generate scam messages from the IRS targeting families, older Americans, and small businesses,” they wrote. “For example, ChatGPT generated a fake email from the IRS claiming that, in order to receive a $1,450 tax refund, an individual needed to respond with personal financial information.” 

“In previous tax filing seasons, many scam messages could be identified by spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and inaccurate references to the tax code,” the senators wrote. “By contrast, tax scams generated by new AI tools are professionally composed and specifically tailored to trick vulnerable taxpayers.” 

The lawmakers requested answers on how the IRS plans to address a possible increase in scams using AI tools, how it plans to educate taxpayers and tax professionals on the matter, and whether the IRS has received any reports of AI-generated scam. 

“Given recent AI developments, we write to urge the IRS to counter AI-generated tax scams, and we request answers to the following questions by May 31: 

  • How is the IRS preparing for a potentially significant increase in scams generated by emerging AI technologies, including deepfakes and chatbots, such as ChatGPT? What existing or planned initiatives does the IRS have to respond to AI-generated tax scams? Please discuss resources that the IRS is dedicating to understanding and addressing these issues. 

  • How will the IRS educate taxpayers and tax professionals about the existence and typical characteristics of AI-generated tax scams and ensure that warnings and information are delivered in a timely manner? 

  • How does the IRS expect AI-generated tax scams to evolve in the short term and medium term? Are AI tools, which can quickly and inexpensively generate tailored scam messages, expected to increase the overall volume of tax scams? How would this affect IRS taxpayer service? 

  • Has the IRS received any reports to date of AI-generated scams and, if so, does the IRS have an estimate of the total dollar amount related to these scams?”