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May 1 2006 tip

Fishing or Phishing - The lure is a fake refund.

 

THEY'RE BAAA-AAACK….and the "phish" smells worse than ever. Internet "phishing" scammers are at it again, and this time more people than ever are getting lured in. The email looks like an official update from the IRS, the senders email address looks official, the IRS logo is on the email…and the subject line would lure in any hardworking taxpayer with its tasty bait that smells of a tax refund from Uncle Sam. But watch out…even though it looks legitimate; don't let these internet thieves catch you with their hook. You could soon find yourself tangled up and struggling to rid yourself of a nasty case of identity theft. Here is the scoop:

A bogus email shows up in your inbox from tax-refunds@irs.gov and has a subject line that reads "Refund Notice", appearing to be from the IRS. If you click on the email to view the contents, it will state that you are entitled to a tax refund for a specific amount of money, usually $63.80 or $163.80 for some reason. However, to obtain the refund you must complete a tax refund form by clicking on a link contained in the email.

Do not click on the link…the IRS does not communicate with taxpayers via email, certainly never asks for personal identifying or financial information via email, and does not require online forms to be completed to receive a refund.

This scam has been working, since everyone "does business" with the IRS, whereas some of the other common phishing scams that copy traditional financial institutions information (like Bank of America), may not even be a company that is used by the recipient. Also, since the tax system is so confusing, it's easy for someone to believe that there may be some extra refund money laying on the table at the IRS. But if you do click on the link or provide any information, these internet thieves are hoping they can capture your personal information and use it to run up charges on credit cards, apply for new loans, or even file fraudulent tax returns. If you receive an email of this type, here's what you should do to protect yourself:

·         Delete any unsolicited emails that have "IRS" in the email address.

·         Find out if the IRS is trying to contact you regarding a refund by calling 1-800-829-1040.

·         If you need to visit the IRS site, go there directly by typing www.irs.gov into your web browser, never via a link within an email.

·         If you accidentally open a bogus email, do not open attachments or click on links. They may contain malicious code that could infect your computer.

Phishing is becoming more and more popular and identity thieves are becoming more sophisticated at using technology to create exact replicas of websites. With identity theft cases on the rise, it is important to use caution when opening emails that are unsolicited or unfamiliar, especially from any type of financial institution, including the good old IRS offering a "refund". It's like the old saying goes…if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.