I recently received an email from the IRS as shown in the screen shot below. Do you think it looks real? I did and for a minute I was about to do as it instructed – provide my social security and bank account details. Then I thought why would the IRS be asking me to do this if I had already provided it in my tax return. Luckily I took the time to check the real IRS website, and found that this “phishing” email is part of a far reaching identity theft scam to get your personal financial information.
An e-mail claiming to come from the IRS about the “Economic Stimulus Refund” tells recipients to click on a link to fill out a form, apparently for direct deposit of the payment into their bank account. This appears to be an identity theft scheme to obtain recipients’ personal and financial information so the scammers can clean out their victims’ financial accounts. In reality, taxpayers do not have to fill out a separate form to get a stimulus payment or have it directly deposited; all they had to do was file a tax return and provide direct deposit information on the return.
I receive a number of scam and identity theft type emails every month but most of them are pretty obvious and automatically end up in my junk email. This one came directly to my in box, looked quite genuine and the timing is also very good. It plays to the basic human emotion of greed and a way to get the stimulus money sooner for a lot of families eagerly awaiting these funds. Unfortunately, I think a number of people are going to get caught out by this hoax.
People whose identities have been stolen through scams like this can spend months or years — and their hard-earned money — 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.
My rule is to always be wary of emails or phone calls that ask for personal and/or financial information. If in doubt check with the real provider. Never give out identifying information to sources you don’t trust and check your credit history regularly.