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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


They are lurking out there again as they always do around tax time. Although we have gone through the attacks before, we will suffer and encore of identity losses between now and April 15 that makes me wonder what it will take to convince consumers never to give up their personal data unless they are sure who they are giving it to. Maybe we could enlist all of you that were made victims in 2008 to spread the word around that this is a fraud.

The Dept. of Homeland Security has taken notice of what’s going on and issued a bulletin on the scam from its U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US CERT). Just scroll down and click on “Feb. 6, IRS Stimulus Package Phishing Scam” to get the details. You’ll be asked in an e-mail to provide your private information by following a link to the crook’s website, or to complete an attached document. No matter how much they are offering you in a refund, don’t do it. The IRS never corresponds with taxpayers for matters like refunds or asking for personal data by e-mail. They only do it by regular mail.

Homeland Security gives a link and encourages users receiving fraudulent e-mails to forward the message to their e-mail: There are also four points supplied to help the public mitigate the risks. If you read this and have a friend or relative, or business associate you know to be somewhat apathetic about the possibility of someone stealing their identity—and there are hundreds of thousands out there—I urge you to suggest that they visit this site.

As always, you can depend on MSNBC’s Consumer Man to cover the latest scams. Herb Weisbaum’s article, “Latest 'phishing' scam lures you with tax return,” talks about how the bad guys suck you in with a promised tax rebate. And who can resist that? Unfortunately, a lot of “gullibles.” That’s my term, and I’m sorry, but after years of grinding away at what to avoid on this issue, there are still those who bite. Someone should do research on the victims so we might begin to realize just how to solve the problem.

As Weisbaum indicates, the scam does deal with a substantial refund, and these are tough times when you just hope that today will bring better news, and, then, there it is. The author calls it a “sense of desperation” that is known to exist by the crooks, and which they prey on with the utmost sophistication.

They ask for your Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card information, even your ATM PIN number. First of all the IRS already has your SS#, and why could they possibly need the PIN for your ATM card? Red flags are hoisted all over, but all the victim is thinking about is the promise of something they probably already know they don’t have the right to. As the article indicates, the IRS does not send refunds by e-mails, don’t audit people by e-mail, and don’t collect taxes by e-mail.

CAUTION: If you get one of these e-mails, first, forward it to the IRS e-mail, above, then DELETE it at once, and never look back. Then help everyone you know to avoid the scam.

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