A few folks have already received their Tax Rebate money aka their Economic Stimulus payment – and unscrupulous crooks are well aware of this fact. All told about 150 billion dollars will soon enter the pockets of millions of cash-strapped Americans either via direct deposits or mailed checks.
Since these tax rebates are prominently featured in the news headlines, cunning criminals have devised numerous ways to try to rip-off hardworking Americans of their hard-earned dollars, and even as a ruse for ID theft.
For example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a press release alerting us of two new versions of these types of schemes.
This IRS press release warned taxpayers to beware of several current e-mail and telephone scams that use the IRS name as a lure.
For instance, the IRS cautioned taxpayers to be on the lookout for scams involving advance payment checks. 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. Most of these fraudulent activities can be committed electronically from a remote location, including overseas. Committing these activities in cyberspace allows these scammers to act quickly and cover their tracks before the victim becomes aware of the theft.
People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years, not to mentions hundreds or thousands of dollars, cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their reputations and credit records. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, may be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.
Tax Rebate Scam #1 - Rebate Phone Call
At least one scheme using the word “rebate” as part of the lure has been identified. In that scam, consumers receive a phone call from someone identifying himself as an IRS employee. The caller tells the targeted victim that he is eligible for a sizable rebate for filing his taxes early. The caller then states that he needs the target’s bank account information for the direct deposit of the rebate. If the target refuses, he is told that he cannot receive the rebate.
This phone call is a scam. The IRS does not force taxpayers to use direct deposit. Those who opt for direct deposit do so by completing the appropriate section of their tax return, with bank routing and account information, when they file. The IRS does not gather the information by telephone.
Tax Rebate Scam #2 - Refund E-Mail
The IRS has seen several variations of a refund-related bogus e-mail which falsely claims to come from the IRS, tells the recipient that he or she is eligible for a tax refund for a specific amount, and instructs the recipient to click on a link in the e-mail to access a refund claim form. The form asks the recipient to enter personal information that the scammers can then use to access the e-mail recipient’s bank or credit card account.
Again, this e-mail is a phony. The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mail about tax account matters to individual, business, tax-exempt or other taxpayers.
Filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a tax refund; there is no separate application form.
Those who have received a questionable e-mail claiming to come from the IRS may forward it to a mailbox the IRS has established to receive such e-mails, email@example.com. In addition, those who have received a questionable telephone call that claims to come from the IRS may also use the same e-mail mailbox to notify the IRS of the scam.
For more information on these tax rebate scams, visit the IRS website at: www.irs.gov.
My Final Thoughts: Millions of Americans, struggling with ever increasing food and fuel prices, are just starting to receive this much needed monetary benefit from the economic stimulus plan’s tax rebate, so it is outrageous that these cyber-thugs are lurking on the Internet, and using the phone, to try to use this economic stimulus program as a wily way to steal identities. Always keep in mind, as a general rule, it is never a prudent idea to give out personal information to an unknown person either via e-mail or by telephone.
Note: If you manufacture or distribute any security, safety, emergency preparedness, homeland defense or crime prevention related products, please send information on your product line for possible future reference in this column to CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
Copyright 2008 by Bruce Mandelblit
“Staying Safe” with Bruce Mandelblit (www.Mandelblit.com) is a regular column for the readers of Newsmax.com and Newsmax.com magazine. Bruce welcomes your thoughts. His e-mail address is CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
Bruce is a nationally known security journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer.
Bruce writes "Staying Safe," a weekly syndicated column covering the topics of security, safety, and crime prevention.
Bruce was commissioned as a Kentucky colonel — the state’s highest honor — for his public service.
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.