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Beware of IRS Phishing Scams this Tax Season

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 2/3/2011

Every year around tax time, crooks run phishing scams where they pose as the IRS and try to steal people's personal information by tempting them with high tax refunds of threatening an audit. Educate yourself and others so that you do not fall victim to this online fraud.

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    IRS Phishing Scam Alert

    The first few months of every year kick off what many call ‘tax time’ in the United States. While the government may be out to get some of your money, there are also crooks on the Internet who try to use tax refund scams as a way of phishing your personal information. With more and more people electronically filing their tax returns, it makes those people more susceptible to being targeted by one of these IRS-related scams.

    The scam starts with an email, which may or may not get picked up by a spam filter. The email will look like it is from the IRS and may even include the official IRS logos and graphics like what you could find on the IRS website. In this email, it could either say that you’re going to be audited soon, or it might claim that you are due a large tax refund. It then provides you with a link to an outside website where it contains a form that wants you to provide a wealth of personal information, including your social security number, credit card numbers, and maybe even your ATM pin number.

    Both the email and the website referred to in this scam look official because the crooks doing this can easily copy graphics off the IRS website and use them to mimic the real thing. All you have to do is right-click and save most any graphic off any site, so putting together this sort of thing is very quick and easy. The sites that host these type scams usually get taken down very quickly, but all they need is one unsuspecting victim to provide their details in order for the whole thing to be profitable for the criminals running these scams.

    Common sense is the first line of defense against these type scams. First and foremost, the IRS would not just send you an email if you were going to be audited. Secondly, the likelihood of them pointing out a mistake in your favor when it comes to a tax return is probably very slim. Also, if you haven’t even filed your return yet, then how could there be an error? Don’t let the temptation of ‘free’ money trick you into falling victim to this cam.

    Another thing to watch out for, and this is true of all phishing scams, is that you should never give your ATM pin number out to anyone. There is absolutely no reason why anyone or anything would need that number and if some website form asks for it, then it should automatically raise a red flag that something is amiss. If somebody has your ATM pin number, they would milk your account from any ATM before you even knew what happened.

    As always, the best thing you can do when you get one of these phishing scam type emails is to delete them. Be sure to warn your friends and family not to respond to these emails, and especially don’t click on the link within them.

    For more information, read Ten Things the IRS Wants You to Know About Identity Theft from the IRS website.