A Congressman wants the Treasury and the Federal Trade Commission to explore shutting down a trio of Web sites that taxpayers could easily mistake for the Internal Revenue Service’s official site.Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet, sent a recent letter to the agency heads, as well as IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, arguing that the disclaimers at the bottom of the sites explaining that that they are not affiliated with the government, does not do enough to provide protection to consumers.
It was in early January that the Computer and Communications Industry Association sent the results of a consumer study to both the IRS and the FTC. The report found that nearly half of the “Web-savvy consumers” it surveyed believed the address www.IRS.com represented the Internet address of the IRS (which is actually www.IRS.gov). Even after viewing the actual site, one-third of respondents still believed that the site belonged to the federal agency.
Although the study wasn’t repeated with two similar URLs -- www.IRS.org and www.IRS.net -- CCIA suggested that a broader study of the general public would likely serve only to underscore similar confusion. Whole none of the sites appear to be engaging in illegal activities, but Markey suggests that the government has a responsibility to protect the public from being misled into offering personally sensitive tax return information to the sites’ operators.
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