By Brian Krebs
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008
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 http://www.irs.gov, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail or opening an attachment. Those who receive a questionable e-mail claiming to come from the IRS may forward it to a mailbox the IRS has established for such e-mails, email@example.com.