IRS warns taxpayers of new scams

Although the government has not yet enacted an economic stimulus package in which the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would provide advance payments, known informally as rebates to many Americans, a scam which uses the proposed rebates as bait has already cropped up.IRS officials in Boston issued a warning to taxpayers Wednesday about new email and telephone scams that use the government agency’s name.According to IRS spokesman Peggy Riley in the New England office, the goal of the scams is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers, which the scammers can use to commit identity theft.”Typically, identity thieves use a victim’s personal and financial data to empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commit crimes,” Riley said. “Most of these fraudulent activities can be committed electronically from a remote location, including overseas. Committing these activities in cyberspace allows scammers to act quickly and cover their tracks before the victim becomes aware of the theft.”In the most recent scam, the phone callers use the word “rebate” as part of the lure and identify themselves as an IRS employee. The caller tells the targeted victim they are eligible for a sizable rebate for filing taxes early. In order to obtain the rebate, the victim is asked to reveal bank account information for a direct deposit. If the person refuses, they are told they cannot receive the rebate.”It’s a scam,” said Riley. “No legislation has yet been enacted that would allow the IRS to provide advance payments to taxpayers or that determines the details of those payments.”Moreover, the IRS does not force taxpayers to use direct deposit, she said.The second fresh scam related to the rebate is being conducted by email, and there are already several variations. In one scheme, a refund-related bogus email, which has the appearance of having been sent by the IRS, tells the recipient they are eligible for a rebate in a specific amount. The email instructs the recipient to click a link in the email to access a refund claim form, which requires personal information be inserted before submitting it.”In a new wrinkle, the current version of the refund scam includes two paragraphs that appear to be directed toward tax-exempt organizations that distribute funds to other organizations or individuals,” said Riley. “The email contains the name and supposed signature of the director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Business Division. This e-mail is a phony.”

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