So, April 17, 2006 has passed, you've met the tax filing deadline and filed your tax returns: Not much to worry about now, right?
Wrong, if you receive an e–mail purporting to come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and if that e–mail asks you to click on a link to claim your refund. Follow that instruction and you'll go to a Web site that looks very much like the authentic IRS site, where you'll be asked to provide your bank account information and/or credit card information and/or Social Security number. Do that and you'll become another victim of an Internet "Phishing" attack.
This scheme actually one of 64 identified tax scams originating from 25 different countries is an attempt to trick e–mail recipients into disclosing their personal and financial data. The practice is called "phishing" for information. Criminals behind the scams use this personal data to empty the victim's financial accounts, run up charges on the victim's existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services, or benefits.
While the IRS sends out e–mails with news releases and general tax guidance, it does not ask for personal identifying or financial information via unsolicited e–mail. Additionally, taxpayers do not have to complete a special form to obtain a refund, as is claimed in this particular scheme. In a variation of this scheme, criminals have used e–mail to announce to unsuspecting taxpayers that they are "under audit" and can make things right by divulging selected private financial information.
If you receive an unsolicited e–mail purporting to be from the IRS, take the following steps:
- Do not open any attachments to the e–mail, in case they contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
- Contact the IRS at 1–800–829–1040 to determine whether the IRS is trying to contact you about a tax refund.
The IRS has also established an e–mail box to which you can forward such suspicious unsolicited e–mails. Full instructions for doing so are available here: How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes.
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