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Phishing Kicked Up a Notch--The IRS Scam

Copyright © 2006 Stephen Wright

I keep reading countless articles and forum posts about various scams. Scammers are cooking up a growing number of so-called phishing schemes, using e-mails that look like they are from reputable sources to cull personal data needed to steal your hard-earned money. Scam artists are so much in hot pursuit of your identity that using popular targets like eBay and PayPal is only the tip of the iceberg.

I heard about a new one that really seems to be just starting up and is predicted to escalate dramatically; the closer we get to the official tax filing season. The scam involves e-mails promising income-tax refunds. The message directs recipients to a scam site where they are asked for private and personal details such as credit-card and Social Security numbers.

What makes this hoax especially effective is that it used a legitimate government site, GovBenefits.gov, to direct would-be victims to its own page. The government quickly caught wind of the hoax and on Dec. 1 fixed the loophole that enabled phishers to use its site as a conduit.

As the online shopping season kicks into full gear, you're probably spending plenty of time wielding your credit card while on the Net. And with tax-preparation time just around the corner, refund-related frauds could reappear.

How does the tax-refund scheme work?
Recipients get an e-mail from tax-refunds@irs.gov that appears to promise a tax refund and asks users to click on a GovBenefits.gov URL, described as the place to go for accessing tax returns. But when victims copy and paste that link into their Web browsers, GovBenefits.gov directs them instead to a criminal Web site that has a fake IRS form asking for personal information.

Here is some information I obtained from the GovBenefits site about what to do, what you should look out for:

What should I do if I receive one of these e-mails?
You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. If you go to the FTC's identity theft site, you can find a link to a complaint input form that's secured with encryption.

Skittish about links? Then call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 877 ID-THEFT (438-4338) or write the Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20580.


Phishing is one of many ways that thieves can gather information used to steal identity. The Anti-Phishing Working Group received 15,820 unique reports in October, compared with only 6,957 the same month last year. The industry association discovered 4,210 phishing sites in October, an explosion from 1,142 a year earlier.

And, of course, be leery of any e-mail that requests account information, Social Security numbers, or passwords. Banks and other legitimate establishments won't ask for these details through e-mail.

Let's be careful out there!!



About The Author

Stephen Wright is President & CEO of InternetMarketing.com Get everything you need to make money online in "Dotcomology: The Science of Making Money Online". Includes Over 30 Time-Saving, Profit-Producing, Influence-Expanding Tools And Software Programs Absolutely Free at: http://www.InternetMarketingUSA.com/dotcomology.html

(Source: Business Week Magazine (12-05-05), GovBenefits.gov, and FTC.gov)

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