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IRS Issues Warning On Proliferation Of Fake Websites

by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, Washington

16 March 2007


The US Internal Revenue Service has warned taxpayers to beware of a proliferation of websites that contain some form of the Internal Revenue Service name or IRS acronym within their address, and may be being used for fraudulent purposes.

In a statement issued this week, the IRS reminded taxpayers that the official IRS government website is www.irs.gov, and warned them not to be fooled into thinking similar websites with a .com, .net, .org or other designation in the address are the genuine agency website.

“There is one legitimate IRS site: IRS.gov,” announced IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “Always check carefully and make sure you know what Web site you are using.”

Because .com, .net and .org are such common parts of internet addresses, taxpayers may automatically or inadvertently type these extensions, instead of .gov, into the address line of their web browser when trying to find the genuine IRS Web site, the agency has noted.

Following recent concerns that misleading internet sites may be causing confusion among taxpayers, the IRS is working with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on this matter. TIGTA has authority to review issues protecting the integrity of tax administration, including impersonation of the IRS. The IRS and TIGTA say they are committed to ensuring that taxpayers are not misled.

Although the IRS website offers interactive features, the tax or private financial information that these features ask the taxpayer for is extremely limited. The IRS reminds consumers who access unfamiliar sites, or sites which they have never dealt with before, that they should never reveal any personal or financial information, such as credit, bank account or PIN numbers, without verifying the validity of the site.

The IRS also reminds consumers to be alert to an ongoing internet scam in which consumers receive an e-mail informing them of a federal tax refund. The e-mail, which claims to be from the IRS, directs the consumer to a link — often a website resembling the IRS website — that requests personal and financial information, such as Social Security number and credit card information.

This scheme is an attempt to trick the e-mail recipients into disclosing their personal and financial data. The practice is called “phishing” for information.

The information fraudulently obtained is then used to steal the taxpayer’s identity and financial assets. 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.

The agency is warning taxpayers who receive an unsolicited e-mail purporting to be from the IRS that they should never click on any links in the message, open any attachments or provide any personal or financial information to the sender.


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