The Internal Revenue Service issued an alert about a new wave of e-mail scams that use the IRS name to commit identity theft.

In May and June, taxpayers reported nearly 700 phishing incidents to the IRS in which scammers sent e-mail purportedly from the agency trying to lure the recipients into divulging their personal financial information. So far this year, taxpayers have reported about 1,600 phishing incidents to the IRS. The most common scams involve economic stimulus payments and tax refunds.

In one scam, the e-mail claims the recipient is eligible for a tax refund and instructs the victim to click on a link to access a refund claim form. The claim form requests personal information the scammer can then use to access the victim's bank account or credit card.

Another scam e-mail purports to be a message from the IRS asking for the victim's bank account information so an economic stimulus payment can be directly deposited there. Yet another scam e-mail offers a link to an IRS report on the company where the recipient works. When the recipient clicks on the link, the Web site may put software on the victim's computer that might allow a hacker to take over and probe for personal information. In a similar scam, an e-mail contains a link to a supposed petition from the Tax Court about a case involving the IRS and the recipient.

Scammers are also using faxes to coax information from taxpayers. One fax claiming to be from the IRS asks the recipient to update their information for the IRS files and promises a special tax refund. The fax asks for not only financial information, but also a copy of the recipient's passport and driver's license, and his or her mother's maiden name.

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