Tax season is upon us and with three extra days to file your return this year, the IRS is warning against scammers that prey upon the unsuspecting. If you are preparing your tax return and searching online for the official site of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, be sure not to click on www.IRS.com by mistake. This private website is owned by Banks.com, Inc. and is not related to the governmental entity we have all grown to love.
Despite yearly warnings and stories of the unsuspecting falling prey to scams, the IRS is calling for taxpayers to be alert for predators who may attempt to contact them by e-mail, telephone, fax, or regular mail pretending to be from the IRS.
They warn that “many of these scams fraudulently use the Internal Revenue Service name or logo as a lure to make the communication more authentic and enticing.” In the form of the fake IRS e-mail, this is known as phishing.
The Internal Revenue Service, like all U.S. government websites, uses the “.gov” top-level domain name and can be found at www.IRS.gov. According to the Internet resource provider WHOIS, the IRS.com domain name was registered in 1999 by the seemingly legitimate Banks.com, Inc. The banner headline on the homepage suggests an official association: “US Tax Center – Tax Information You Can Trust.”
The IRS.com website is not affiliated with the government despite the misleading “US Tax Center” title. While the company appears to be a legitimate private business, they are difficult to reach offering only an e-mail form, no phone number or e-mail address, and several unlinked icons. Several pages offering “how-to” related articles are blank.
The goal of scammers is to trick the unsuspecting into revealing personal information such as name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, credit card, and PIN numbers, or other confidential information. With this information, scammers steal money or commit identity theft. Personal information should never be revealed until verification is made upon a legitimate request.
The Internal Revenue Service advises taxpayers on how to respond should they receive a suspicious e-mail, telephone call, fax or letter:
The IRS does not request detailed personal and financial information like credit card or PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information.
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail and will not send a message about your tax account. If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site; do not reply to the message, click on any of the links, or open any of the attachments.
The official IRS website is http://www.irs.gov. Do not be confused or misled by websites claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service but ending in .com, .net, .org, .us, or designations other than .gov. If you discover a website claiming to be the IRS but suspect it is bogus, do not provide personal information and report it to the IRS.
If you receive an e-mail, telephone call, fax or letter from an individual claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, but suspect they are not, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine their legitimacy.
Become proactive in shutting down scams and prevent others from being victimized. Report scams and learn what to do if you have been victimized at http://www.irs.gov, keyword ‘phishing,” or e-mail the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consumers who believe they have been victimized by an IRS scammer or identity thief should also visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.OnGuardOnline.gov for guidance. The IRS is one of the site sponsors.
To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, visit www.williamlewis.us.
William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.
Source: The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune – Media General Group http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2011/feb/27/LCNEWSO1-beware-of-irs-scams/