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IRS identity theft scams plague nation through email

The United States Internal Revenue Service cautions Carbon County consumers to avoid identity theft scams using the IRS name, logo or website.

The identity thieves may use other federal agency names such the U.S. Department of the Treasury to convince taxpayers that the scam is a genuine communication from the IRS. The fraudsters frequently pose as trusted government, financial or business institutions or officials to trick victims into revealing personal and financial information, indicated the IRS.

The personal information includes credit card and bank account numbers as well as passwords along with Social Security numbers.

Generally, identity thieves use someone's personal data to steal his or her 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 and even file fraudulent tax returns, pointed out the IRS.

The scams may take place through email, fax or phone.

When the fraudulent activities take place via the email, they are called phishing scams.

The IRS does not discuss tax account matters with U.S. residents by e-mail, stressed the federal agency.

The IRS urges Carbon County consumers to avoid falling victim to the following recent schemes:

In the making work pay refunds scam, the phishing email claims to come from the IRS and refers to a provision in the 2009 economic recovery law.

The scam assures consumers that a refundable credit is available to workers and retirees that can be paid into bank accounts if the recipient registers the information with the IRS. The e-mail contains links to register the account and claim the tax refund.

Most taxpayers receive making work pay tax credits in paychecks as a result of decreased withholding, not as a lump sum distribution from a federal fund, advised the IRS.

Consumers and retirees who are not wage earners are not eligible for the tax credit.

In a second phishing scheme, recipients receive an e-mail claiming to come from the U.S. Department of the Treasury notifying them that they will receive millions of dollars in recovered funds, lottery winnings or cash consignments if they provide certain personal information.

The e-mail may be the first step in a multi-step scheme in which victims are recontacted and instructed that they must deposit taxes on the funds or winnings before they can receive the money.

Alternatively, victims may be sent phony checks and told to deposit the documents after paying 10 percent in taxes or fees. Thinking the checks are genuine, some people comply and the scammers walk away with the taxes or fees.

In the Form W-8BEN scam, fraudsters modify a certificate of foreign status of beneficial owner for U.S. tax withholding and request detailed personal as well as financial information.

The emails or letters claim to come from the IRS and state that the recipients will face additional taxes unless they fax the information to the number provided by the scammers.

Taxpayers file W-8BEN forms with financial institutions, not the IRS, emphasized the federal agency.

In the most common scam identified by the IRS, a bogus email tells recipients they are eligible for tax refunds, but must click on a link to n complete the required form.

Recent variations on the scam have claimed to come from the Exempt Organizations area of the IRS. Others have included the name and purported signature of a genuine or a fake IRS executive.

Taxpayers do not have to complete a special form to obtain a refund, advised the IRS. Federal refunds are based on tax returns submitted to the IRS.

Many e-mail scams are fairly sophisticated and difficult to detect. However, there are signs to watch for, explained the IRS.

The signs include emails:

•Requesting detailed personal and/or financial information.

•Dangling bait to get recipients to respond such as mentioning a tax refund or offering to pay the individuals to participate in an IRS survey.

•Threatening a consequence for not responding to the e-mail such as additional taxes or blocking access to the recipients' funds.

•Giving an incorrect name for the Internal Revenue Service or federal agency.

•Using incorrect grammar or odd phrasing.

Many of the e-mail scams originate overseas and are written by non-native English speakers, noted the IRS.

The IRS does not initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited e-mail, pointed out the federal agency. In addition, the IRS does not ask for personal identifying or financial information via e-mail.

Carbon County residents who receive suspicious emails should never open any attachments or click on links in case they contain malicious codes that will infect computers.

Instead, local consumers should contact the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1040 to determine whether the agency is attempting to make contact.

Residents should also forward the suspicious e-mail or url address to Consumers should then delete the emails.

The agency's only genuine website is Residents wishing to access the site should initiate contact by typing in the address rather than clicking on a link in an email, concluded the IRS.

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