IRS cracks down on phishers

The Internal Revenue Service has set up an e-mail address for taxpayers to forward suspicious e-mail messages that claim to come from the IRS. The address is phishing@irs.gov.

By collecting suspicious messages, the agency can investigate fraudulent e-mail messages, which have increased recently, the IRS said. To date, investigations by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have identified Web sites located in at least 20 countries that host more than two-dozen IRS-related phishing scams.

“The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails asking for personal information,” IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said. “Don’t be taken in by these criminals.”

Many scam messages that claim to come from the IRS tell recipients that they are due a federal tax refund. The message then directs them to a Web site that appears to be a genuine IRS site. The bogus sites contain forms or interactive Web pages similar to IRS forms or Web pages, but they have been modified to request detailed personal and financial information.

Tricking consumers into disclosing their personal and financial information, such as secret access data or credit card or bank account numbers, is identity theft. Such schemes perpetrated via the Internet are called “phishing.”

Instructions on how to submit a suspicious e-mail message to the IRS are available at www.IRS.gov. Enter the term phishing in the search box and read the article titled, “How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails.”

The IRS can use the information and links in the bogus e-mail messages to trace the hosting Web sites and alert authorities to help shut them down.

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