FTC: Beware of tax and rebate scams

Phone calls, e-mails seek personal data in the name of the government

The Federal Trade Commission is warning that phishers and other scammers may target taxpayers looking to collect their economic-stimulus rebate checks from the IRS.

Phone calls or e-mails seeking Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and other personal information should be ignored, the FTC says, because government agencies don't collect such information via telephone or e-mail.

People who receive such contact can report it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov or to the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.

The FTC says phishers will use the data gained via phony calls and e-mails to steal identities for monetary gain. The e-mails may include links to official-looking but phony Web sites where victims will be asked to submit personal information.

In another possible scenario, the link could be to a genuine Web site, but the act of clicking on it may install malware on a person's computer, the FTC says.

In order to claim a one-time stimulus payment, people who otherwise don't have to file tax returns will have to do so. That means many people who are unfamiliar with IRS procedures will be dealing with the system and may be particularly vulnerable to scams like these.

The government has started mailing out 130 million letters to taxpayers eligible for the stimulus payments that are meant to encourage consumer spending and blunt the chances of a recession.

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