An unsolicited e-mail from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is most likely a scam.
Identity thieves are using the IRS name, or logo, in an attempt to gain access to financial information and steal the assets of unknowing taxpayers, the IRS warns.
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Websense, a security company, agrees that phony IRS-related “phishing” attacks are on the rise as the April 15 tax deadline nears. "Cyber thieves sit back and wait for current events such as tax season," said Dan Hubbard, senior director of Websense's security research, in a statement. "With tens of millions of online users filing their taxes on the Internet, many Web filers readily disclose personal identifiers such as network passwords, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or their mother's maiden name,” Information Week reported.
Victims of identity theft have had their credit ruined as fraudsters apply for new loans, while piling up big charges on existing credit cards.
The agency said: “As a general rule, the IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal information. Additionally, the IRS does not ask people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.”
These latest schemes involve tricking taxpayers into revealing their personal financial information on a website that looks very similar to the authentic IRS site, but asks for personal information. The IRS said 12 websites, hosted in more than a dozen countries, are involved.
The IRS suggests that taxpayers do not respond to questionable phone calls, standard mail, faxes or e-mails, without verifying their authenticity. Do not reveal secret passwords or PINs to third parties. Do not click on links contained in questionable e-mails or open attachments; instead, go directly to the legitimate IRS site at www.irs.gov. The IRS also suggests shredding financial documents before throwing them away.
Consumers who receive fake IRS e-mails can file a complaint with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or call the agency's hotline of 800.366.4484.