The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported yesterday that the Internal Revenue Agency (IRS) ,in concert with cyber security agencies, have shut down nearly 2000 fraudulent web sites this year alone that falsely invoked the IRS name or logo in an effort to dupe taxpayers into releasing personal information.
Dee Harris, a spokeswoman with the IRS, said that the agency is seeing "a lot of different scams," she tells the Times-Picayune. Even though tax filing is a one-time event each April, "the scams seem to be year-round and they take different angles to try and scam people."
The bottom line for scammers is the collection of personal and financial information, which they then use to apply for loans or open new credit cards and make purchases under that person's name.
If You Suspect an Internet Scam, Don't Open or Click…
Some scammers have seized on the Making Work Pay Refund, which is a refundable tax credit made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The credit is passed on to workers in the form of a decreased tax withholding from their paychecks. But identity thieves posing as IRS officials are approaching some individuals via e-mail and asking them to register with the agency so that the refund can be deposited into their bank account.
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Another way internet scammers work is by getting unsuspecting marks to click on imbedded links which might suggest a legitimate site, but in actual fact is an unsavory portal that puts spyware and other forms of software in the unsuspecting victim's computer without consent. Such spyware can mine the hard drives for personal information and upload at will.
Thus, beware of Internet fraud. An official-looking site, even one purported to represent a government agency, is no guarantee it's the real thing. An educated and vigilant consumer must learn to spot the difference—and when in doubt, don't open any email or click on any link you are not sure of.