IRS Warns of Scams To Steal Data With Of­fer of Tax Re­bate

The Washington Post - - National - By Brian Krebs

Tax re­bate checks cour­tesy of a pro­posed eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age have yet to be ap­proved by Congress, but some scams are us­ing the an­tic­i­pa­tion of ex­tra cash to lure peo­ple into dis­clos­ing per­sonal and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion, the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice warned yes­ter­day.

Re­bate-re­lated scams are adding to the num­ber and so­phis­ti­ca­tion of fraud schemes tar­get­ing tax­pay­ers, the IRS said.

Many of th­ese scams in­volve of­fi­cial-look­ing e-mail mes­sages that try to lure re­cip­i­ents into en­ter­ing their fi­nan­cial and per­sonal data at fake IRS Web sites, usu­ally by say­ing the tar­get is el­i­gi­ble for a re­fund check.

In 2005, the tax agency tracked four sites us­ing some ver­sion of this ID theft scam, gen­er­ally known as phish­ing. Last year, the IRS tracked 900 such sites. This year, based on the num­ber of phish­ing sites de­tected in Jan­uary, the IRS said it could con­tend with more than 3,700.

Phish­ing also can oc­cur over the phone. In some of the re­cent cases, con­sumers re­ceived phone calls from some­one iden­ti­fy­ing him or her­self as an IRS em­ployee. The caller tells the tar­get that they are el­i­gi­ble for a size­able re­bate for fil­ing taxes early but that the IRS needs bank ac­count in­for­ma­tion to di­rectly de­posit the re­bate. If the tar­geted con­sumer re­fuses, they are told they will not be el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive the re­bate.

An­other pop­u­lar e-mail scam tells the re­cip­i­ent they need to down­load and use an at­tached IRS form to prop­erly file their taxes, or that the re­cip­i­ent is the sub­ject of an IRS au­dit and should view the at­tached doc­u­ment. The at­tach­ments usu­ally con­tain spy­ware that can steal pass­words and fi­nan­cial data from the vic­tim’s com­puter.

The IRS urged con­sumers to ac­cess its Web site through www.irs.gov, rather than click­ing on a link in an e-mail or open­ing an at­tach­ment. Those who re­ceive a ques­tion­able email claim­ing to come from the IRS may for­ward it to a mail­box the IRS has es­tab­lished for such e-mails, phish­ing@irs.gov.

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