The Internal Revenue Service has come out with its annual list of tax scams for this season, and it contains some alarming items.
One of the leading themes this year is the economic stimulus payment, or tax rebate. Scammers are calling and e-mailing people claiming to be IRS employees and asking for confidential information such as a bank account or credit card number, in order to send the rebate. The scammers can use the information to try to run up charges on the victim's credit card or clean out their bank account. Not only is the IRS not involved in the scams, many of the activities originate overseas.
In another scam, the victim receives an e-mail purporting to be from the IRS telling the recipient that they will receive a tax refund. The intended victim is then instructed to click on a link to access a refund claim form. The form asks for personal information that can then be used to steal money from the victim.
This scam has been around for a while, but the IRS said it's been seeing a new variation this year. The latest version includes an extra two paragraphs aimed at tax-exempt organizations that distribute funds to other organizations or individuals. This e-mail message contains the name and supposed signature of the IRS's Exempt Organization division, making it extra convincing.
Another new scam sends a personalized e-mail message informing the recipient that he or she is going to be audited by the IRS. The message contains a personalized salutation, which the IRS notes is unusual for e-mail scam artists, who tend to send out bulk e-mail messages. This indicates a growing level of sophistication on the part of the scammers.
Scammers are also continuing to use the phone for their con jobs. In some cases, they are calling up their intended victims and claiming to be IRS employees who want to know why the paper check they've sent hasn't been cashed yet and asking for the victim's bank account number.
The IRS pointed out that it is not interested in why someone did or did not cash a check, and it only asks for bank account information when the taxpayer indicates on the return that they want their refund directly deposited. But the IRS will not telephone someone to verify that the routing and account numbers are correct.
To report any scams, taxpayers can write to firstname.lastname@example.org or forward their phishing e-mails to that address.
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