Beware the IRS Stimulus Payment scam

Question

I got an email from what looked like the IRS that would allow me to see when I am going to get my Stimulus Payment, but when I clicked on the link, it went to a dead page. Are these emails a scam?

- Brenda

Answer

This question was answered on May 9, 2008. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The skilled crafting of “phishing” scams, which are attempts to fraudulently acquire sensitive or personal information by posing as a trustworthy entity, is getting more creative Creative phishing scams make it increasingly more difficult for the average user to tell a scam from a legitimate message.

One of the more commonly faked entities in these scams is the Internal Revenue Service because everything starts and ends with your social security number.

If you aren’t paying attention and assume your working with the IRS, you will likely enter your social security number without thinking about it.

The phishing scam policing arm for the IRS, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), has shut down over 1,600 phishing websites in the past couple of years and there is nothing to suggest that this won’t increase in the future.

The fact that the link in the message went to a dead page is a pretty good indicator that the message was the lure to get you to go to one of the rogue info stealing pages that thankfully has already been shut down.

These days, phishing sites are shut down within hours of launching as the various reporting entities have gotten pretty efficient at the process Back when phishing scams first started appearing, the average lifespan of a fake page was over two days, which allowed the bad guys to collect more info with less work.

The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mail messages, warnings or request for your information, so unless you are actively working with someone at the IRS, you should assume that anything claiming to be from the IRS is bogus (There are also a number of phishing e-mails circulating that claim that you are entitled to a refund, which you can receive by clicking on a link in the fake message.)

What’s making this latest scam so likely to catch folks off guard is all the talk in the news about the “Stimulus Package Payment” from the IRS to taxpayers.

Any number of e-mails may come your way that encourage you to check your status by going to the “Where’s my Stimulus Payment” link on the IRS website.

While there actually is a page to do just that, creating something that looks exactly like it is very easy and is in circulation at malicious websites around the world.

The key is to never click on a link in a message of this nature, but rather, manually launch your browser and type the address of the resource in yourself.

That allows you to independently confirm or dispel the information in the message without putting yourself at risk In the case of the Stimulus Payment, if you go directly to www.irs.gov, you will see a link right on the home page that will take you to the Stimulus Payment resources.

If you want to report this or any future phishing attempts that poses as the IRS, you can send a copy to [email protected] or file an online report at the TIGTA website (www.ustreas.gov/tigta) .

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on May 9, 2008