Originally Posted on February, 16th 2008
Along with the tax man come the inevitable new breed of scam artists. Be on guard – criminals who want your personal information use this hectic and confusing time of year to prey on unsuspecting individuals.
Watch out for unscrupulous scammers, who are sending emails that appear to be from the IRS. The content of the emails are often written to persuade you to link to a website that will allow you to update your data or receive important information. Remember, these phony emails are quite sophisticated, and the links send you to what usually appear to be legitimate IRS or government websites. In reality, they are not. These sites will prompt you to divulge private information under the guise of the IRS requiring it, to offer a larger refund, or sometimes, ironically, to protect you from identity theft or loss of privacy.
There are some simple steps you can take to avoid falling prey to one of these scams.
Always Be Suspicious of Emails. Remember, the IRS does NOT initiate communication with taxpayers through email, but rather through the regular mail. If you receive an email that says it’s from the IRS, you should immediately be suspicious and should forward it in its entirety to the IRS, so that they can take steps to shut down the fraudulent and bogus websites. The IRS requests that you forward all questionable emails to email@example.com.
Double Check the URL Address. Keep in mind that all IRS websites begin with the following web address: http://www.irs.gov/. So, if you ever click a link in an email or visit a website that you believe is related to the IRS, the first thing you should do is confirm the website begins with the correct URL address. Remember, sometimes it may “look” legitimate, but is actually an imposter site that is “phishing” for information. So always, always double check the actual URL address before you type any information in the site.
Exercise Extreme Caution with Attachments. When it comes to questionable emails, the best practice is to never open any attachments. That’s because attachments are an extremely common method that hackers use to infect your computer with programs that may harm your computer or steal your personal information–often without you even knowing!
In today’s technological environment, electronic communication offers us tremendous speed and convenience. But it can also be used for unethical purposes by scammers. Most organizations have worked very hard to put strict privacy policies in place. As a result, government agencies and financial institutions will rarely, if ever, ask you to divulge personal information via email.
If you receive any email asking for personal information of any kind, you should immediately be suspicious. When in doubt, call the customer service lines listed on your statements or documents and discuss the email that you received.