Lately, you may have received an email claiming to be from the IRS, telling you that you have a refund coming. You are instructed to perhaps click on a link and provide all sorts of personal information, including your social security number. Some emails might imply that you could be in some sort of trouble if you don't comply.
These emails represent what are called "phishing" scams, in which con artists send out emails that appear to be from legitimate companies or organizations in order to get your personal information, especially your SSN. With this information, they can rob your identity, opening new lines of credit and sticking you with the bill. For more information about
IRS-related phishing scams, click here. And phishing is evolving, becoming more sinister, and technologically sophisticated. In the 12 months to August 2007 phishing attacks cost Internet users some $3.2 billion, according to this article which includes a lot of good information about where such crimes could be headed.
To avoid these scams, common sense is your best friend:
- Never give out personal information online: few if any companies or organizations will seek information from you in this way.
- When investigating the legitimacy of a request, do not use the phone number or any email or Web site link from the email. If you get an email supposedly from your bank, for instance, look up the number in the phone book.
- Be suspicious if the email asks for information that the organization should have at their disposal: if my bank somehow lost my account number and needed me to provide it to them, well, I'd find a new bank.